Remember how we went on “bar inspections” three weeks ago so that my sister could choose where to celebrate her birthday? Well, in the end there was no need to choose. Last Friday (two days after her b’day) was also her last day in her previous job, so she and some friends from there went for drinks close to their office. Then they headed to Newtown, where we met for dinner.
Gladys and her friends have a strange addiction to Thai food. I don’t know exactly how many times a week (or day?) they eat Thai, but apparently when they’re celebrating something or just decide to dine together, it’s always the cuisine of choice. Well, this occasion was no exception to the rule, but at least we didn’t end up in Thai Pothong (not that is bad, but I like to try new places) and went to Thai Riffic.
This place belongs to some sort of chain, which owns restaurants under different brands in several suburbs. I’m subconsciously against restaurant chains ’cause my brain tends to relate them to McDonald’s, KFC, and the like, but once inside the nicely decorated dining room I forgot about mass-produced anything and got ready to please my taste buds.
While we waited for some people to arrive, we had a bit of a discussion about what to order. Gladys and her friends normally order a dish each and then share among all, but I find it difficult with group of more than 6. We were 11, so I suggested either ordering a dish per person without sharing or getting two or three of a selection of dishes, so that everybody could have a bit of everything. My suggestions weren’t that popular, but luckily someone spotted the banquets in the menu and all of us agreed on going that route.
There are two banquet options costing $35 and $45 per head. We chose the cheapest one because we reckoned the other one would be way too much food. And we were right.
The starters arrived super fast, which was good because a) we were hungry, and b) the restaurant shuts at 10 pm. The two first entrées to arrive were spring rolls (deep-fried vegetarian spring rolls served with plum sauce) and crispy soft shell crabs fritter (battered soft shell crabs served with sweet chilli sauce). Both came with threads of carrot on the side, a welcome colourful and healthy complement. The spring rolls were ok, I found them a tad oily but the filling was tasty, which sometimes isn’t the case with vegetarian rolls. The soft shell crab was really good, with a crispy batter and nice flavour.
Crispy soft shell crabs fritter
Shortly after the third and last entrée arrived: petite satay chicken (grilled marinated chicken sticks served with homemade peanut sauce and cucumber relish). These were really good, luckily we were allowed to have two per head (ok, I had three). The peanut sauce was sweet and chunky, just the way I like it, so I didn’t even bother to try the cucumber relish (which wasn’t actually a relish, but by the looks of it more like pickles floating in vinegar). I must say that the sauces that came with all three entrées were the highlight up to that point.
Petite satay chicken
Then there was a gap until the mains arrived, which was alright to allow for a bit of conversation, and most importantly, digestion.
The first main was yet another classic: salt & pepper squid. This one received mixed comments, some people loved it and some hated it. I liked the texture of the squid (cooked for the right amount of time, neither undercooked nor chewy), but I wasn’t a fan of the batter. It felt like too much oil in the mouth, even when it didn’t look oily.
Salt & pepper squid
The main I’d be craving arrived next: duck salad (roasted duck with sliced cucumber, mint, red onion, coriander and carrots, drizzled with chilli and lime dressing). It reached my expectations, the duck was flavoursome, soft and not excessively fatty, and the salad gave us a much needed touch of freshness.
The next main, which was actually a side, was my least favourite dish of the night. The stir fried assorted vegetables (stir fried mixed vegetables in a classic oyster sauce, sprinkled with fried onion) were unfortunately overcooked and soaked in a watery sauce. On the bright side, the dish included tofu, a bit of extra protein.
Assorted vegetables stir fried
Luckily, the best dish was served at the end of the night. The massamun (is that the correct spelling?) lamb shanks (braised lamb shank with baby potato in massamun curry sauce) are, as the menu says, a must try. At this point we hadn’t been served the steamed jasmine rice yet and my sister had to ask for it. Once it arrived, sprinkled with black sesame, we could enjoy the amazing curry. We were already stuffed but couldn’t stop spooning chunks of super soft lamb bathed in gorgeous curry sauce on top of modest amounts of rice.
Massamun lamb shanks
$35 per head was very good value for the quality and quantity of food. Service was attentive and usually fast. But the meal hadn’t ended yet, it was time for cake. Alvaro and I went for a post-dinner walk to pick up the gelato cake Gladys had ordered at Gelatomassi.
The place was packed, as usual on a Friday night. Or any night, really. People don’t seem to care about the wet rubber smell that is a permanent fixture in the gelateria. We had to wait a few minutes while three people scooped colourful balls on cups and cones. A customer almost had a heart attack when the gelato boy trashed a perfect two-scoop cone with one wrong flavour (the customer ordered apple and the guy served apple crumble). Finally we got the cake and walked back to the restaurant sorting out the masses of people who wander King Street on weekend nights.
After the session of gift-opening and photos, we sang happy birthday in English and Spanish, and Gladys endured the hard task of cutting the cake with a table knife. I thought it had some kind of sponge cake as a base, but it was all gelato. Caramel on the bottom, vanilla on the top, with butterscotch sauce and a few frozen strawberry halves for looks.
Vanilla & caramel gelato cake with butterscotch
I want to say that the gelato was amazing, but that’s not news. Everybody knows it. I took advantage of sharing a plate with Alvaro, who eats ice cream at a slower pace than I, and had more than him.
Thai Riffic Newtown
109 King Street
Newtown NSW 2042
(02) 9517 3066
262 King Street
Newtown NSW 2042
(02) 9516 0655