There's something very relaxed and casual about the outdoor courtyard at Newtown's Bank Hotel. I think its the abundance of wood; large picnic tables, bench seating, a raised wooden deck and timber columns that surround the courtyard. All this is offset by hanging pot plants, burgeoning palms and big terracotta pots filled with water and floating flowers.
It wasn't always like this. It's taken a multi-million dollar makeover to create the sense you've just arrived for a barbecue in someone's [landscaped] backyard.
Eggplant and mushroom $17.00
with hot chilli and basil
According to the blurb at the bottom, the Sumalee Thai menu is designed for sharing. Light meals start at $16; mains run through from $17 (vegetarian for one to two people) to $34 (seafood dishes for two to three people).
The eggplant and mushroom stir fry with hot chilli and basil is always a favourite. Shiny strips of eggplant are soft, sweet and faintly sticky. The sauce is fragrant with garlic, fish sauce and wilted basil leaves. Its almost jammy in consistency, perfect for pairing with the sponginess of eggplant, and even better drizzled generously over bowls of steamed rice ($2 per serve).
Pad thai with king prawns $29.00
Pad thai with seafood is a little pricey but of more concern is the spectacle of chopsticks plunged deep into its heart. K, a Japanese ex-pat, is mortified and pulls them out within seconds. Japanese never put chopsticks standing up into a dish, as its appearance makes them resemble joss sticks which are placed into bowls of rice that are offered to the dead.
It's a generous portion of pad thai that is thankfully not too saucy (one of my big pet hates, particularly those that taste of tomato sauce). King prawns are scattered throughout the dish and there's a healthy bundle of crunchy bean sprouts, fried whole chillis (not particularly hot as I munch down two) and sprigs of coriander and flat chives for extra pep.
Red curry of barramundi fillets $34.00
with fresh king prawns
Our other must-order dish is the red curry of barramundi fillets. Thick, creamy and rich, the red curry sauce is a brilliant shade of golden yellow ochre. We bask in the scent of kaffir lime leaves and basil, the deep heavy bowl filled with fat chunks of barramundi and soft cooked wedges of Japanese pumpkin.
It's an enormous portion but it's delicious, and that means it doesn't take long for the serving spoon to hit the bottom.
Sumalee Thai at the Bank Hotel
324 King St, Newtown, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 8568 1900
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11/18/2007 05:56:00 pm