Wild Rice


Shop 18/11-19 Ferguson St, Williamstown. Phone: 9397 5484

On leaving Wild Rice after a really fine lunch, we troop up Ferguson St for a coffee at what turns out to be a hidey-hole of the Italian variety that we resolve to explore in further depth at the earliest possible opportunity.

As well, well-known Italian chef Rosa Mitchell is busy injecting Sicilian zest into the Hobson’s Bay Hotel, just opposite Wild Rice, though the prices we scan in the display menu outside put that joint into the “special occasion” bracket for us.

So maybe we’re being a touch harsh in our long-running disdain for Willy as a dining destination.

Still, it remains odd to us that a suburb so stuffed with eateries should have found so little place in our hearts, compared to, say, nearby Altona and Newport.

We’ve liked Wild Rice for a while, though, and are always pleased to return.

After visiting Snowballs Ice-Cream, we’d headed for Altona for a Viet/Sino place that turned out to be closed for Saturday lunch.

Further rambling was rejected in the interest of a safe bet in Willy.

Wild Rice is a swell Thai place with an elegant cafe-style vibe quite a way removed from that of many low-price places we frequent.

The service, we’ve found, is always swift and smiling.

The night-time a la carte list would stretch our budget – salads around the $15 mark, curries and stir fries from about $16 to $20 and up depending on your choice of protein.

So naturally, we head for the “lunch specials” list, which is available from noon to 5pm.

This features pad thai, tom yum and red curry noodle soups, and fried noodles for around $13-15.

But again, and happily for our wallets, we are drawn to the cheaper dishes.

Bennie will never say “no” to satay of any kind, so says yes here to the chicken stay and rice ($11.50)

The meat on his four skewers is a little hard to remove from the wood, but he loves it anyway. The satay sauce is a on the skimpy side, but tastes grand – it has a really distinctive flavour that speaks, we presume, of some real care and lack of shot cuts in the kitchen.

The rice and salad bits are good.

My “savoury pancakes” ($11.50) are actually a single rice flour pancake of the kind familiar to us from its counterpart in Vietnamese restaurants.

This one is a blast and half. It’s bloody good, with Bennie casting envious glances as his dad barely suppresses moans of pleasure. The stuffing is a just-right mix beans sprouts and minced pork. The salad quotient, provided by lettuce, carrot strands, mint and fresh coriander, is likewise near perfect. The whole dish is set off by being dressed with a beaut housemade sweet chilli sauce.

We really like the way both our meals treat the herbs as more than just a matter of garnish – the coriander and mint are sufficiently copious to make them full team members.

A couple of commentators at the Wild Rice entry on Urbanspoon opine that the restaurant is the “worst Thai food in the West” and “Thai food for people that don’t want the authenticity”.

The first comment is, I feel, on pretty shaky ground.

The second quip? I simply don’t know enough about Thai food to offer an authoritative judgment. But based on the non-bottle flavour of Bennie’s satay sauce and the simple, profound pleasures of my pancake, I suspect Wild Rice may actually be among the most authentic Thai places going around.

Wild Rice on Urbanspoon

5 thoughts on “Wild Rice

  1. When I lived in Bangkok, satay, not being a traditional Thai dish, wasn’t served much. If it was, it was as a dip with raw vegetables – beans, cucumber and so on. I suspect it’s eaten more in the south where there is a significant Muslim population. This was in the 1990s though, so the food would have changed since then. Thai food guru David Thompson says ‘satay’ is a Chinese word that means ‘three pieces’. In Thai Food, he includes a recipe for satay that adds condensed milk, fish sauce and Mekong whisky to the mix of coconut cream, turmeric, palm sugar, roasted peanuts, chilli, coriander and cumin. It’s a bit of an improvement on the Aussie peanut butter-based satay that I suspect many pubs etc serve here.


    • Hi Caron! All true, I’m sure. The thing about Bennie’s sauce is that it tasted different, better than your average satay concoction. Notions of purity in our food can be interesting to muse over, but I’m wary of getting stuck there … many of the countries share borders and overlapping food traditions, and then these days things move on again. Indo-Chinese food, for instance.


  2. That’s right and a very good thing, too. In Vietnam they have a surprisingly successful French-Vietnamese fusion cuisine and the world’s best coffee. The Thais have borrowed traditions from many other nations. Chilli, for example, was not originally part of Thai cuisine but was introduced by the Portuguese in the 16th century. Often, I like the Thai versions of imported recipes better. Hainanese chicken rice and fried rice, for example, I prefer Thai-style. Thai cafes in Bangkok also do pasta dishes, usually macaroni, with Thai sauces. Sounds strange but is actually very good and I sometimes cook such a thing for a quick lunch-for-one at home.


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