Sweet Rice, 102 Millers Rd, Altona North. Phone: 9315 3691
Having enjoyed our debut meal at Sweet Rice in Altona, with Consider The Sauce buddy Keri for company, we are keen to return to explore the menu further.
Truth is, yours truly dominated the ordering procedure on that visit, and not all that skillfully, either … we ended up with a lovely meal that was nevertheless dominated by fried items.
This time around, we’re joined by our lovely next door neighbours, Rob and Ming.
I am determined to order the green mango fish – for the simple reason it’s been tipped as the menu highlight by Andy of Krapow, which specialises in Thai food.
That’s good enough for me!
Other than that, I tell Ming and Rob, I plan to take strictly hands-off approach – they can figure it out with Bennie.
So that’s what we do … and we have fine old time.
No entrees, five mains including a salad, rice.
The quantities and quality are all pretty much spot on, and our choices arrive in as quick time as can be expected..
Grilled beef salad ($9.90) has exactly the sort of zingy flavour, without much by way of a chilli hit, we are expecting.
But in other ways this dish puzzles us, as we are all used to Thai salads being made of much more finely chopped ingredients, or with meat that is finely shredded or comes in a crumbly mince form.
Here, the beef is simply larger slices of wok-cooked meat and the vegetables are equally large pieces of lettuce, cherry tomatoes and onion slices.
Red curry chicken ($9) is smooth and creamy, with plenty of chicken and vegetables, including cherry tomatoes, capsicum and juilenned bamboo shoots.
But it seems almost shockingly mild in its seasoning levels.
Nice, too, but is this another case of an eatery catering to suburban takeaway expectations, perceived or otherwise?
Green mango fish ($12.90) – thanks, Andy! – is the big flavour hit of the night, even winning favour with the usually fish-hating Bennie.
A more than adequate array of crispy-battered and finely cooked fish fillets (we forget to ask what kind) are buried beneath a cheerful wig of mango strands, onion, chilli rings and coriander.
There’s a big lemon hit and everyone is happy.
You’ll be unsurprised to know that sweet and sour pork ($9, top photo) is a Bennie nomination.
But you may be surprised, as we are, that this dish – a Thai twist on a Chinese cliche – goes down a treat.
There’s little by way of sweet or sour, but the sticky sauce goes well with the light, ungreasy and nicely chewy battered pork pieces.
Prawns with chilli and basil sauce ($10.50) provides, at long last, the spice hit for which we have seemingly been yearning.
Indeed, the chilli levels are a bit too high for Bennie, but it’s all good and there’s plenty of prawns.
Oddly enough, I must have been suffering from chilli deprivation, because the remnants of the red curry chicken taste better after a run-in with high spice levels.
We’ve enjoyed a really nice meal that has never really reached stellar heights but that for sure places Sweet Rice in a niche significantly above your average suburban Thai restaurants.
Matched with incredible prices – our dinner for four, including three soft drinks, just barely tops $60 – and it’s easy and right to classify Sweet Rice as a true gem.
Thanks to Rob and Ming for the company and lending us their tastebuds!