In a city fickle with trends and the proliferation of Thai/Asian spinoffs, Longrain has well and truly stood the test of time.
A seasoned fan of this establishment, I always know that, no matter what, Longrain will come up with the goods.
The no-booking policy doesn’t phase me. The wait is never too long, even on a night that is buzzing and I don’t think I’ve ever had to wait longer than 45 minutes for a spot, so I’m quite content to wait the time out in the bar, Shortgrain, cocktail in hand. The cocktails here are as excellent as the food – The Ping Pong, the signature drink is packed with the goodness of lychees, passionfruit & vodka – though I find it difficult to go past the Acapulco Gold – one of my all time favourites. A concoction of crushed lemon, vanilla syrup & chilli infused tequila. Trust me. It’s delicious.
Longrain is all about sharing. Owners Martin Boetz and Sam Christie cottoned on to the communal table phenomenon that took-off somewhere in the late 90s/early 00s and haven’t looked back. There is plenty of elbow room and the chatter in the space is loud enough to create a great vibe; your conversations are not competing with the volume of the room, so you don’t feel like Grandpa at bingo – lip reading, nodding, yet not following. All dishes are designed for sharing, so there is only ever an upside and you never really get order envy. I have to say, now I have my favourites, I rarely venture outside them. Executive Chef Martin Boetz has the four suits of Thai cuisine stitched up – hot, sour, salty, sweet, all in perfect symphony.
Tonight, we opted for two favourites and added a new choice to our menu. Accompaniments are an essential part of each dish at Longrain. Caramelised pork hock is an absolute must. Cooked three times, First deep fried, to crisp up, then tenderised by brewing in masterstock and finally, deep fried again. The accompanying chilli vinegar perfectly cuts through the sweet sticky caramel to tantalise your taste buds, moreish and rich. Silken tofu blocks, battered in a savoury salt & pepper, served with a sauce of tamarind and tonight, a new addition to the menu, a Thai take on drunken Chinese chicken, moist and tender morsels of breast, served cold with a herb salad. Delightful. The layering of flavour with each dish is painstaking, yet brilliantly simple.
I’m not big on dessert, but the same could not be said for the rest of the table we did sample two – black sticky rice with fresh sliced mango and baby coconut peels, as well as a layered tropical tapioca pudding with sorbet. Surprisingly light and a lovely way to end the meal.We were disappointed to read that the dessert tasting plate had been taken off the menu, since it was a great sampler of an array of Asian desserts. The wait staff mentioned that they had received similar feedback from other patrons, so here’s hoping they reconsider the change.
So, if you’re looking for inspiration from the menu, my picks are:
- Betel Leaves. Anyway you can get them.
- Caramelised Pork Hock. An absolute signature dish & must order.
- Braised Beef Shin
- Egg Net
- Salt & pepper whole fish. Not always present, but when it is, order up!
- Salt & pepper silken tofu
I’m more flexible when it comes to curry, so I do like to mix up my curry choices, depending on the day and the meat – there are ample to choose from, including dry curry styles.
After a meal at Longrain, you walk away feeling well fed. The dishes are not heavy with fish sauce or syrupy palm sugar, like many a local Thai shack. They are light and fresh and each dish is respectful of its ingredients. They meld together beautifully so as not to overpower your palate.
Did you know?
- Longrain Melbourne opened in 2005 and this writer vouches for it. As good as her sister restaurant in Sydney. All the essence of the food that put this gem on the map, with consideration and respect for the cultural nuances of Grande Dame Melbourne.
- The Betel is the leaf of a vine belonging to the Piperaceae family, which includes pepper and kava. It is valued both as a mild stimulant and for its medicinal properties.
- Executive Chef and founding partner Martin Boetz has recently announced that he will leave Longrain in June 2013 to focus on his farm and chef’s co-op ventures.