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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sumalee Thai at the Bank Hotel, Newtown

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

Sun-Tue, 10am-midnight
Wed-Thu, 10am-2am
Fri-Sat, 10am-4am

Related GrabYourFork posts:
Bar menu at the Bank Hotel, Newtown

Newtown - Corelli's Cafe
Newtown--Gourmet Viking
Newtown--Guzman y Gomez
Newtown--Oscillate Wildly (Feb 06)
Newtown--Oscillate Wildly (Oct 05)
Newtown--Oscillate Wildly (Jan 05)
Newtown--Rowda Ya Habibi (Mar07)
Newtown--Rowda Ya Habibi (Jul04)
12 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 11/18/2007 05:56:00 pm


  • At 11/18/2007 10:15 pm, Blogger Rachel said…

    The presentation looks gorgeous and appetizing (apart from the unlucky chopsticks) ... did you find the flavours authentic or was it more Aussie-Thai? I loved your descript of the courtyard ...made me really want to go there and have a drink and check it out!

  • At 11/19/2007 2:35 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    We like this place too - it's just round the corner from us. Try the duck salad next time you go, it's great!

  • At 11/19/2007 2:40 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I'll have to say .. i didn't expect it to be so expensive.. ;) but if they are good food.. for sure.. worth paying.. :)

  • At 11/19/2007 4:59 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    hi helen

    food looks delicious but those prices are very expensive. is it worth it for the price and quantity compared to other good thai places like Spice I Am?

    simon :-)

  • At 11/20/2007 8:53 pm, Blogger Monique said…

    The tradition for the Chinese is the same about the chopsticks. I think they should have been more thoughtful, even though they're trying to create a fusion cuisine look.

  • At 11/21/2007 7:49 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Its posts like this one that make me crave thai food for breakfast.
    Gorgeous pictures ^^

  • At 11/21/2007 7:01 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Used to be one our favorite places for Thai - now we have young children we can't eat there because of the licensed bar at the front =(. All parents with prams get waved away by the bouncer at the front door.

  • At 11/22/2007 10:42 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    For a $29 pad thai, I'd be expecting lobster not prawn and perhaps a shoulder massage.

    Eating overpriced Thai food in a mega-pub beer garden just doesn't excite me at all... Longrain is probably cheaper!

    Sorry to be negative.

    Keep up the good work, your photos pain me with hunger :)

  • At 11/22/2007 5:57 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Rachel - The flavours are quite authentic - strong, fragrant and well-spiced. A Thai friend of mine thinks the barramundi is particularly good!

    Hi Jax - Ooh I do like a bit of duck. Will have to keep an eye out for it next time.

    Hi Mama Bok - The food is quite expensive but it's tasty and the surrounds are good :)

    Hi Simon - They say these dishes are meant to be shared between two to three people. I think the prices are about on par with Spice I Am - their portions are actually quite small so I think in the end it all evens out :)

    Hi Monique - That's true. It's an unusual thing to do. One presumes they aren't aware of the implications?

    Hi Bean_Mix - Mmm... I love a good hearty breakfast. Noodles always go down well!

    Hi KevW - Really? I didn't realise. I did see a family with young kids that day though. The kids were only about 3 and 5?

    Hi Al - I thought the pad thai was a little pricey but the barramundi was actually a very large serving and probably enough for three people with rice.

    And I hope you managed to satiate those tummy rumblings :)

  • At 11/22/2007 8:10 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Helen - you know what? We haven't tried going back since they renovated the place! If they're allowing kids now, I'm back! Thanks for mentioning it!! =)

  • At 11/25/2007 4:19 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I c ame looking for recipes and found photos that made me even hungrier!

  • At 11/27/2007 9:34 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi KevW - Good luck. Hope they let you in :)

    Hi Quilly - Food blogs are always making me hungry :)


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