The last time I used a discount coupon was at a Thai restaurant called Nytiate Bangkok Cafe & Restaurant in Elsternwick a few weeks ago for lunch. The reason I purchased the coupon was because of its reasonably good review on Urbanspoon, having over 80% ‘like it’ votes is not something that’s so easily achievable. However, I was slightly disappointed with what was offered, both in terms of food quality and atmosphere, though the speed of sending out dishes and level of service were commendable. I believe there has actually been a change of management in recent months, so people shouldn’t take the votes at face value.
I’ve been to numerous Thai restaurants in the past and compared to those that shine with gold statues, fresh flowers and fancily dressed waiters, Nytiate was plain to say the least. However, I didn’t give up upon entering the restaurant because the menu seemed enticing. We were able to choose 2 entrees, 2 soups, 2 mains and 1 dessert from the menu for just $29, although drinks were not included. It would have been great value if the food was good as well. We decided to order 2 drinks (their drinks list is tiny, 4 in total) – a Thai coconut juice and a raspberry flavoured ‘mocktail’ for $3 each. The coconut juice tasted like it should, slightly sweet and subtle in coconut flavours. However, the raspberry ‘mocktail’ was really just a sweet raspberry cordial. I’d assume the other mocktail is the same standard so I would definitely not recommend their mocktails to anyone.
|Lychee drink & Raspberry Mocktail – $3 each|
The entrees were acceptable. The first dish we chose was chicken satay skewers valued at $9.90. What we got were 4 small chicken skewers with a nice coating of peanuty satay sauce accompanied with 2 pieces of white toast. I would have liked my satay sauce to be more chunky with roughly chopped peanuts because I like the crunching sensation when I’m eating my satay. Nytiate’s satay was a bit too on the smooth side for me. Other than that, the taste was reasonable, maybe a little bland but still flavoursome and the chicken pieces were tender.
|Chicken Satay Skewers – $9.90|
The second entree that appealed to us was the Tord Mun Pla, described on the menu as ‘deep-fried patty made from fish, kefir lime leaves, green beans and red curry paste served with cucumber relish’. It wasn’t dissimilar to the fish cakes I was often served at Vietnamese restaurants. Fish ball type products are not Yuye’s favourite so this dish wasn’t the highlight of the meal for him. I liked the fish cakes however, just because I love the combination of sour, chilli and fish sauce flavours. I especially liked the little bits of cucumber in the sauce which provided me with entertainment as I clumsily picked them out of the sauce while we waited for our soups to arrive.
|Tord Mun Pla (fish cakes) – $8.50|
There were only two soups on the lunch menu (I was told the dinner and lunch menus were the same over the phone, however, I don’t believe this was true) so the wise choice was to order one of each. I ordered the tom yum soup with prawns which the menu again explains as ‘the most famous of all Thai hot and sour soup flavoured with fish sauce, lemongrass and lime leaves’. I agree that it’s probably the most famous soups in the Thai cuisine that is known to western society. So much so that many non-Thai Asian restaurants have tom yum as a noodle or soup flavour. In my opinion, it sums up Thai flavours very well, incorporating sour, sweet and chilli components while accentuating the hero of the dish – the prawns (or other main ingredient of your choosing). However, I was slightly disappointed with Nytiate’s version of this otherwise fabulous dish. The soup was a bit bland, a bit watery and lacked depth. In fact, it looked so boring that I had to move bits of coriander to the centre of the bowl for my camera to even focus. It wasn’t bad by any means but it definitely didn’t excite me.
|Tom Yum Soup with prawns – $9.90|
Yuye got the Tom Kha soup with chicken which is a ‘delicious aromatic Thai coconut soup flavoured with galangal, lime juice, fish sauce, lime leaves, lemongrass and chilli’. I’ve never ordered this soup before as tom yum was always at the tip of my cravings and I always thought ordering the same dishes at different restaurants provided the best comparisons. So when I tasted Yuye’s soup after tasting my not-so-exciting tom yum, I was instantly sold. It was so rich, smooth and creamy with just the right burst of lime flavour that after one spoonful, I was ready to chow down the whole bowl. Yuye wasn’t happy at the idea and pointed out that I had in fact ordered my own poor little soup that had since been demoted to a corner of the table.
|Tom Kha with chicken – $7.90|
I had wanted to order the Gaeng Massaman which is a Thai Muslim curry served with potatoes, coconut, peanut and beef, but was told that it wasn’t available due to a beef shortage that day. I quickly changed my order to the Gaeng Panang which is a Thai dry curry with sliced beef, chicken or pork cooked in Panang chilli paste, coconut milk and fresh basil leaves’. I was then told again that there was no pork that day. Funny that. I wonder if beef and pork would be available if a non coupon user walked in that door. I had no choice but to order chicken with the dish.
I was all happy and salivating after the soups that when my main arrived, I thought it didn’t look too bad. Looks can really be deceiving sometimes. Even though the dish looked colourful and tasty, it unfortunately lacked salt and coconut milk. I was happy with the ingredients which were fresh and tender, however, the flavours were really lacking that we couldn’t really bear to eat it all. A real shame.
|Gaeng Panang with chicken – $14.50|
The other main dish we ordered was the Gaeng Keow Wahn Pahd Haeng with prawns which was meant to be ‘stir-fried with green curry paste, cherry eggplant, kermit eggplant, lime leaves and fresh basil leaves’. It was a vibrant and well presented dish, although again lacking in salt and overall flavour. What upset me wasn’t the bland flavours, but really the fact that no eggplants were present in this dish at all. I read on another blog post that at least the kermit eggplants were present. I wasn’t sure if it was a mistake on the chef’s part or another ‘ingredient shortage’ but the experience planted the idea in my mind that maybe buying coupons really doesn’t give me the best treatment or even ‘normal’ treatment that a regular customer might have received. In the end, due to a lack of flavour and too much food, we took the mains away. Later that evening, we had the leftovers for dinner, after Yuye transformed the dishes by adding in salt and coconut milk. They were so much better with that little bit of love.
|Gaeng Keow Wahn Pahd Haeng with prawns – $17.50|
I didn’t quite understand why we only had a choice of one dessert. Did they expect us to share a dessert or something? I would normally have said that it’s a bad assumption because desserts are often fought over and rarely ever shared, but the Toddy Palm Cake we ordered came with two cute and steaming cakes which were just enough to satisfy the both of us. As we were quite full by that time and I’d had enough chicken and prawns for the whole week, the piping hot and slightly sweet cake was gladly welcomed. I’d say it was more like bun texture rather than cake. As it’s usually made with rice flour, sugar palm fruit, palm sugar and coconut milk, both texture and taste were quite different to the usual cakes we are used to. I made a silly mistake of identifying the leaf containers as banana leaves and then Yuye corrected me by saying ‘no, they’re palm leaves silly! We’re eating Toddy Palm Cakes after all’. I might not be able to identify the leaves but I certainly couldn’t mistaken the lovely aromas of this sweet cake as nothing less than delicious. It was probably the highlight of the day for me, so much so that I might try to make these at home one day!
|Toddy Palm Cake – $5.00 (no price was shown on the menu but the owner told us it was $5 for 2)|
The moral of the story is that although there were a few winning dishes, the overall experience wasn’t worth the 1 hour drive to and from home and I probably would not return to Nytiate again. However, for anyone who is local to the Elsternwick area, you might want to give the place a go, at least now the discount coupon period is over and maybe the standard of food is higher than when I visited. For now, I will stay away from purchasing coupons on a whim, saving my bucks for a better cause or possibly a better meal elsewhere. This thought wasn’t just born on this one occasion, I’ve had another previous coupon experience that was a lot worse than this which I will save for another blog post, if I do ever get around to posting about it.
So my readers, has any of you purchased restaurant (or any other) coupons before and regretted your purchase?
Nytiate Bangkok Cafe & Restaurant
Phone: (03) 9078 4109
356 Glen Huntly Rd, Elsternwick 3185