Sunday, December 21, 2008

Longrain (Melbourne)

44 Little Bourke St
Melbourne VIC
Australia 3000
T - +61 3 9671 3151 (they do not take reservations for less than 6 people)

For those familiar with Longrain Sydney, it's not 'same same but different' - let's face it Melbourne has a food culture like very few other places. It seems people in Melbourne live to eat rather than the other way around. Food is so much a part of our culture we have a peculiar relationship with our restaurants. If we like the restaurant, we shamelessly promote it - as we would do something so deeply personal to us. If we do not like it we don't tell anyone - we simply never mention it. 

It is with that in mind that I hereby shameless promote Longrain. 

Longrain Menu sings loudly of chef Martin Boetz influence - with strong Thai/Asian flavours lending itself to balance, harmony and taste - oh boy was there taste! If you're looking for lacklustre, cookie-cutter Thai food then you're at the wrong place. Walking through the door and being confronted with large communal tables and a kitchen humming with activity - you know you're somewhere out of the ordinary. 

The tables are all impeccably polished and set with cloth napkins and western cutlery. If you're a couple you sit side by side instead of facing each other. This is a great idea since the food is so good - you want to quietly sigh and whisper to your companion rather than look at them. 

My suggestion is to order a cocktail from the brilliant list - I heartily recommend anything with lychee - I think along with mango, cherries and raspberries, lychees are the most delicious, exotic fruit - that translucent lushness, that sweet tartness... oh ...

The food. Well I think people who have been to Longrain (Syd or Melb) know and they are unanimous in their praise and their worship. Rightly so. We wanted to try everything - the menu looks small but it isn't - it is created with intelligence - knowing that people, when face with many choices of pork or beef or fish, will narrow it down to 2 and then 1. When the choice is of 2 completely unctuous dishes it becomes a challenge then you have to talk with your table staff for them to help you. And help they do at Longrain. 

Our table staff helped our decision down to Betel Leaf topped with prawn peanuts toasted coconut and ginger, Caramelised Pork Hock with five spice and chilli vinegar (sml), Crisp fried soft shell crab with a green mango salad and a roasted eschalot dressing (sml) and finally crisp fried pork with chilli and basil stir-fry. A word of advice - the dishes are large and ideal for sharing - so if your table staff recommends a small portion - heed their advice.

The Betel Leaf was a mouthful of perfection - prawn meat complimented by the crunch of peanut, toasty goodness of coconut and a combination of sauces - I don't know what sauce or how much - but it was the most amazing single mouthful ever. You sit and think about it a few days after you get home - wondering but never quite getting it. You will never forget it.

Pork Hock - this dish was the best thing I had ever eaten - ever. If I have to have a 'last dish' then this would be it. I would build a Pork Hock Taj Mahal to this dish. You have no idea how good it is unless you go and eat it. If you don't eat anything else next year - make this your pilgrimage. Deeply golden pork hocks - obviously master stocked and deep-fried to a crisp outside, tender meat and that orgasmic gelatinous lip smacking fat - it is the stuff people write poetry about or in my case, a review. These love-at-first-bite pieces of pork are accompanied by two bowls of condiments - a heavenly sweet rich caramel (palm sugar based) and its alter ego, a bowl of clear chilli vinegar with perfect rounds of Christmas-red chilli. You choose how sweet or tart or what balance you like and you go to town on that dish. 

After that dish my husband and I were ready to pledge our undying love and leave - but there was more...

Crisp fried soft shell crab with a green mango salad and a roasted eschalot dressing - you've probably had deep fried soft shell crab before, if so then you're about to eat the real thing for the first time at Longrain. Impossibly crisp crabs in a deliciously tart, hot, sour and sweet salad with dressing. Incredibly - there was crab! Real crab in my soft shell crab dish! I tasted crab which was a real surprise - I loved this dish and would order it again in a heartbeat. 

Crisp fried pork with chilli and basil stir-fry - this dish we couldn't do justice to - simply because we were already in love and being shown the older, more complex dish to the pork hock. We were full from the other courses so we only mustered a few bites of this dish. I think it was a deep, fragrant, well balanced dish that would set more than a few hearts on fire. From what I tasted the pork was crisp, juicy and completely complimented by the jumble of snake beans, crunchy fried basil, chilli shards and that complex sauce - oh boy, that sauce...

We were sated. We were surprised. We were happy. 

Our bill - $123.00 for 2. This included rice for 2 ($6) and $2 for charity. Plus 1 cocktail, 1 soft drink and all that food... 

A small price to pay for a dish which now has me in its thrall - a dish I'm off to fantasise of now. 


Anna said...

I'm yet to taste either Longrain, but reading reviews like this just make me want to go out there right now.

3 hungry tummies said...

as someone with thai background, i do think the food is a little heavy handedly handle

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