Tidlom Thai Antique Restaurant, Melbourne CBD – homey, authentic Thai food

Tidlom Thai Antique Restaurant is not your usual western influenced Thai fare. What we’ve been eating and calling delicious at Thai restaurants around Melbourne were often adapted to meet western tastes and toned down in terms of spiciness and the ‘unusual’ ingredients that might have been present if served in a Thai household. I don’t blame those restaurants though as meeting customers’ requirements is the safe thing to do. However, if you’re feeling adventurous and want to see what traditional homely Thai cuisine is like, head over to Tidlom for a taste.

Just a note though, that big ‘Cilantro Star’ sign isn’t the sign for this restaurant, it was just so huge I couldn’t get it out of the photo….don’t be mistaken people! I did find the restaurant a tiny bit hard to find, but instead of looking for the restaurant sign, it’s a lot harder to miss the movie posters inside I think. πŸ™‚

Restaurant owner and head chef Top opened Tidlom at 550 Lonsdale Street in the CBD not long ago and has been gaining popularity ever since. The team prides themselves on serving dishes with ‘no gimmicks, no fancy plates’, just ‘purely Thai as is, the way it should be served and eaten’. That’s good enough for me!

Upon entering the restaurant, the first thing I noticed was the overhead awesome lights and the Thai number plates on the wall. The lights were seriously mesmerising I had to struggle to take my eyes away from them and focus on other important matters, like being seated and then gawking at the menu.

The opposite wall was covered in old Thai movie posters. By Thai I meant many that were western and Chinese movies but written in Thai. I think most people would get confused about the name of the restaurant being ‘antique’. I was expecting some sort of antique furnitures or decorations but instead the place was adorned with slightly quirky lighting (the roof was covered in lightbulbs) and an old 70s movie feel.

When I first read the menu, both Yuye and I exchanged looks. Not bad looks mind you. We were in awe of the fantastic and interesting sounding array of dishes on offer here. The menu was quite large and consisted of appetisers to whet your taste buds and to go with a good Singha beer (they’re popular for beer here it seems), soups, rice and noodles dishes as well as curries and stir-fries. Think marinated pork or Thai beef jerky, preserved pork soft bone, deep fried chicken joints or deep fried pork intestines. I’m not sure why our usually adventurous selves opted for more regular dishes than these unique ones you probably can’t get anywhere else. I think we were secretly leaving them for a follow up visit. πŸ˜‰

First up, we had to order a beer each. How could we not when this place seems to love it? So I ordered a Singha ($5.50) and Yuye ordered a house beer ($3.50). We both thought the Singha was a lot stronger and tastier. But boy they both went well with the dishes.

If you’re less adventurous (like we were on the night), you can follow in our footsteps and order the fantastic soft-shell crab topped with dry curry sauce $16.90. I thought it was out of this world when I took my first bite. The perfectly soft but crispy skin of the crabs and the faint sweetness of the crab meat is really enhanced through the flavourful curry sauce. I was very tempted to ask Top about the ingredients that made up the sauce but thought it might have been a secret recipe.

Top did say though that he makes all the curry sauces from scratch for each and every dish. It’s a lot more hard work but it tastes a lot better this way as if you leave curry sauce out for a while, the taste dulls. Maybe that’s the secret! This dish was medium spicy which we could handle. As it was such a rich and flavoured dish, a bowl of rice was necessary to soak up all the sauce. It might be a tad sweet for some people so if you like beer, I really suggest you order one to go with the meal. A big thumbs up for beer with these dishes.

You see the plate we used to eat? It was white enamel. I was so in love with them I really wanted to ask (yes I know I wanted to ask a lot of things that I didn’t) where I could buy them from. But I totally forgot as we were so immersed in eating our food.

We also ordered the Thai salami spicy salad ($14.90) with dried pork skin, chilli, ginger, onion, vegetables, lime juice, crispy rice and minced pork balls. Wow that was a mouthful to say. When it says ‘spicy’ it really meant spicy. Top came around before he went ahead and made that salad to ask whether we could take heat. We answered yes, moderately and he said good. But we were not expecting the kick that this dish had. Although not my favourite dish of the night, I reckon people who loves a good chilli kick would like this dish.

Yuye did say however, that he found something in the dish giving a slightly bitter aftertaste. Maybe it was the pork skin but wasn’t sure exactly. I didn’t really taste it much though.

The last dish but definitely not the least was the Pad Thai – Tidlom style ($14.90), consisting of stir-fried rice noodle with a choice of meat (we chose chicken) and covered with egg. It was quite different to the usual pad Thais I’ve been consuming that’s for sure. It was a lot sweeter and the egg is usually in the noodles, not on it. Yuye and I both agreed though that it was a good dish. We loved how the seasoning is left in little heaps on the side of the dish and also loved the sheer SIZE of this monster dish. There’s no way I could have finished it by myself.

So you probably can’t tell how big is it in the photo….

The noodles were thinner than the usual type you’ll see and had a little more bounce which I liked. This dish wasn’t all that spicy (if at all…I couldn’t tell anymore because of all the heat in my mouth from the salad), but if you’re keen, you can add in the chilli flakes supplied on the side and definitely don’t forget the peanuts to give it that crunch!

Overall it was a great meal. Top was warm and welcoming, the food was fantastic and went so well with the beer. I was just kicking myself for not trying an appetiser dish. I will definitely do that next time I visit.

When we headed in, it was already very late, we actually started dining at past 8:30pm. They were quite full when we got there but when we finished, we were the only people left! The restaurant staff including Top all started eating their own dinners.

Ichigo Shortcake dined as a guest of Tidlom Thai Antique Restaurant

Question time: How much heat can you normally take? Are you one who can battle it on with a Thai local and possibly win some chilli eating contest or are you like me who can only handle medium heat? Or maybe you can’t eat chilli at all like my cute grandma who is turning 99 at year end?

Tidlom Thai Antique Restaurant
Phone: (03) 9606 0991
Shop C1, 550 Lonsdale street (Healeys Lane), Melbourne, VIC 3000

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27 comments… add one
  • bata August 23, 2012, 1:57 am

    looks good, does it get busy at dinnertime :>

    • Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake August 23, 2012, 10:16 am

      Well, we went at past 8:30pm. When I called up at 7:50pm to make a reservation for 2 people for that night, they told me it’s quite full and whether I’m ok to go at 9pm. This was on a Saturday night though…when we arrived a few tables had freed up but not sure whether you can just rock up at 6:30pm without a booking. Surprising for its location but people are finding out about the secret!

  • The Squishy Monster August 23, 2012, 4:12 am

    I love the old school decor…and just whisper cilantro and I’m there!!!

    • Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake August 23, 2012, 10:14 am

      It’s actually not called Cilantro Star…I knew it was going to be confusing…that sign is WAY too big…:P I added a small paragraph in the post to make sure people don’t get it wrong. πŸ™‚

  • Hannah August 23, 2012, 5:04 am

    That Thai Salami dish sounds fantastic!

    • Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake August 23, 2012, 10:29 am

      It sounded fantastic, too bad I couldn’t take the heat and that’s almost all I tasted. πŸ˜› I need to work on the heat department…

  • kitchenriffs August 23, 2012, 7:25 am

    I love the enamel plates! How cool. And this sounds like a fun place. I always enjoy your restaurant reviews – thanks.

    • Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake August 23, 2012, 10:28 am

      I know, how cute are they right! They would have been perfect in my food photos. Maybe I’ll ask him next time I go. πŸ˜›

  • Zoe August 23, 2012, 7:58 am

    Hi Jenny,

    I’m from Melbourne too. Nice to know you at your blog and Twitter. Reading your blog is like finding lots of hidden food paradise in Melbourne… then, I realise some are your cooking too. Yum!

    Now following you at Twitter.


    • Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake August 23, 2012, 10:09 am

      Thanks a lot for visiting my blog Zoe! I just hopped over to your blog too and I must say, you seem like a very talented baker! πŸ˜€

  • Daisy@Nevertoosweet August 23, 2012, 8:05 am

    I can take a LOT of heat hehe This looks like a great authentic Thai restaurant that’s hidden so glad you’ve helped reveal it to us ~ I might go after work since it’s not that far from me hehe yay!

    • Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake August 23, 2012, 10:11 am

      Haha a LOT of heat you say…maybe you can ask Top to add extra chilli to your dishes then. πŸ˜‰ Yes it is quite a hidden restaurant but they were surprising still quite full when we went, even though I would have expected mostly lunch customers from all the office buildings nearby..

  • yummychunklet August 23, 2012, 12:36 pm

    I could definitely go for some of that pad thai right now!

  • Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella August 23, 2012, 3:31 pm

    What a great little place! And those enamel plates are so “now” aren’t they! I covet some too! πŸ˜€

  • Tania @ A Perfect Pantry August 23, 2012, 4:03 pm

    You’ve found a gem. I love the look of this place and the food makes my mouth water:)

  • Kiran @ KiranTarun.com August 23, 2012, 4:11 pm

    MMmm.. I love a good thai food! It’s been a while since we went to one. Need to remedy that soon πŸ˜€

  • Nami | Just One Cookbook August 23, 2012, 4:22 pm

    It’s been nearly a week that I’ve been craving for Thai food. It’s one cuisine that I need to learn very hard so that I don’t have to wait till I can dine out. All the food looks delicious!!!

  • Libby @ theveryveryhungrycaterpillar.com August 23, 2012, 6:53 pm

    I got an email from Top too, inviting me to give this place a go. I haven’t yet been due to being busy with assignments, work etc but I will definitely pop in for dinner sometime. Good thing is that this place is close to my work πŸ™‚ I will try not to book at 8pm on a Saturday night though – surely this place would be not-too-busy at 6pm on a Wednesday? (man, I sound like a granny, hah).

    • Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake August 23, 2012, 8:14 pm

      I reckon Wednesday night should be fine, but give them a call just in case. πŸ˜› Close to work is good! Then you don’t have to find another parking spot. Finding the parking took us more than 2o minutes. πŸ™

  • love2dine August 23, 2012, 7:19 pm

    thai food i love it.. especially the pad thai with the egg wrap up. oh… i miss it..

  • Choc Chip Uru August 23, 2012, 7:36 pm

    The Thai cuisine looks perfect my friend, absolutely delicious πŸ˜€

    Choc Chip Uru

  • JasmyneTea August 23, 2012, 11:02 pm

    Yum yum, looks good! I’m going to Thailand in a couple of weeks, I can’t wait to try the authentic street food!

  • Asmita August 24, 2012, 12:08 am

    The food looks incredible!

  • choux choux August 27, 2012, 9:41 pm

    I went here after reading your review and I loved the food! And i went back the next day for lunch, which was a bit awkward cos the same waitress was there. But all worth it!

  • Ming @ sweetandsourfork August 27, 2012, 10:38 pm

    Liar, you said your photos didn’t come out as well as mine :p That picture of Top is great, and so’s the food. I really hope Top does well, there’s so much heart and flavour in his food

    • Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake August 28, 2012, 4:23 pm

      !!! Some of the photos look so artificial….:P your photos look more natural and in focus. Hmmff! Anyway, yes I really hope his restaurant will do well too and I’m pretty sure it will as more people find out about the place. πŸ™‚

  • Claire @ Simply Sweet Justice August 31, 2012, 2:42 pm

    How fun! Awesome pics.


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