43 Anderson St, Yarraville. Phone: 9687 1198
What was once Cafe Urbano – an establishment of no great distinction – is now At 34, cafe by day and Thai restaurant by night.
It’s been open for a while, and we’ve often wondered how it’s going. On week nights it’s seemed a little forlorn, unloved and sparsely populated.
At 6.30pm on this Saturday night, there seems no such problems. Two tables are already busy as we arrive, two more are quickly occupied soon after and by the time we split a table of seven has also taken up residence.
This outing is Bennie’s call and it’s an inspired one. Considering his dad has been plowing through the debilitating effects of glandular fever all week, a casual five-minute stroll around the corner is much preferable to a wild drive to the wilds of Deer Park and the unknown quantities of an Indian eatery on an industrial estate. Maybe next time!
We have a swell time.
We wonder why we took so long to drop by.
The service is delightful and the arrival of our tucker prompt.
If our meal is good rather than really dandy, we happily blame a couple of dud menu choices.
Incredibly, for all the countless times Bennie have been out on the fang, this is the first Thai meal we’ve shared.
We start with one of the specials – gai hoi bai toey (marinated chicken cooked in pandan leaf, $6.90).
This is just OK for us. The chicken pieces are smallish, making the price seem a little on the steep side. They’re juicy enough, but there’s little or no taste of the publicised marinade flavour.
The pork salad (naem sod, $11.50) is a different matter entirely.
This is just as zingy with lime/lemon, ginger, coriander and chilli as we could wish, all of it a super foil for the chewy pork mince. Although it is at the upper chilli limit at which Bennie can enjoy eating!
The pad kee mao (fried thick rice noodle with chilli, sweet basil, vegetables and tofu, $11.90) is very mild by comparison.
In reality, the noodles are restrained in number, making this more of a straight-up wok-fried mixed vegetable dish. It’s good and does the job of adding variety and colour to our meal.
Our last hurrah fills us up right good – siszzling beef ($16).
This, too, is nice enough – plenty of beef pieces, almost as many cashew nuts, pleasant gravy. The problem seems to us that it’s more of a Chinese-style dish than a Thai one!
So … a good meal that may have been made better had we not tried so hard to steer clear of the usual Thai suspects.
We regret, for instance, not ordering the red duck curry ($18) on the specials board.