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Published August 6th 2012
Excite your tastebuds
About three months ago, as I was driving along Marion Road, a new eatery caught my eye. This place was called Little Chilli Padi. Eagerly awaiting its début opening, I have since returned back twice.
Having lived in Malaysia, I was very excited to find this new addition to the Adelaide eating scene. A family owned business, the proprietors hail from East Malaysia. The service is welcoming and the level of what you would expect from a casual eatery. Thought has been put into the decoration of the place with photos of chillies adorning one side of the wall and mirrors on the other. Three pendant lights that illuminate the surrounds hang from the ceiling.
Little Chilli Padi offers quite a diverse range of Malaysian food and has various curries, stir-fried noodles, noodle soups, rice dishes and mains (meat/poultry/seafood/vegetables) that would accompany well with rice.
Char Kuey Teow - Flat rice noodle stir fried with prawns, fish cakes, barbecued pork, crispy pork lard, bean sprouts, chives and egg in a dark carmael sauce
The Char Kuey Teow ($8.90) has always been the highlight at this place. The addition of crispy pork lard makes it a cut above the rest of other Kuey Teows around Adelaide. Unfortunately, the Char Kuey Teow did not live up to my expectation on this recent visit. Despite the generous serving, the stir fried rice noodles did not have enough "wok hei" and seem to lack prawns, fish cakes and barbecued pork. Could this have been attributed to a different cook on the weekends? Or the kitchen was busier than normal?
Assam Laksa is one of my favourite dishes and might be an acquired taste. Consisting of round fat rice noodles that are not all that different in appearance to thick spaghetti, it is served with fish, shredded cucumber, red onion, mint and pineapple in a slightly spicy, sour assam based broth. Apart from Kopitim on Gouger Street, I do not know of any other place that serves Assam Laksa in Adelaide. The Assam Laksa ($12.90) at Little Chilli Padi tasted better than it looked. Although slightly sweeter than what I would have liked, the Assam Laksa is decent enough for me to order again.
The Combination Mamak Laksa ($8.90), which for most Australians is known simply as Laksa was inviting. Yellow Hokkien noodles and rice vermicelli noodles bathed in a spicy coconut milk broth were adorned with prawns, squid, chicken, fish ball, fish cakes and bean sprouts. The flavours were well balanced and the broth not over powered by coconut milk.
The Hainanese Chicken Rice ($8.90) at Chilli Padi leaves much room for improvement. Apart from being overcooked, the chicken breast was probably not the best choice for this dish. The rice that accompanied this dish should be flavoursome and moist, but was disappointingly hard and dry.
The Beef Rendang with steamed rice ($8.90) was considerably better than the Hainanese Chicken Rice. Although this spicy beef stew had all the essential ground spices, it somehow lack depth of flavour.
Apart from soft drinks, beers and a small list of wines available, there were some interesting drink choices available. This included Coconut Juice, Homemade Ice Lemon Tea, Ribena Sprite and Kopi - Malaysian White Coffee. The Teh Tarik ($3.60), Malaysian white tea which we ordered was modestly good although it could have been made less sweet.
Little Chilli Padi offers lunch specials that are good value for money. At $8.90 a dish, you can select from a variety of dishes including Nasi Lemak, Char Kuey Teow, Mamak Laksa, Hainanese Chicken Rice, Wanton Noodle Soup and Beef Rendang with Steamed Rice. For an extra $1.10, you can add a can of soft drink.
Adelaide is really lacking in good authentic Malaysian cafes and restaurants. Although the level of food at Little Chilli Padi can be inconsistent, the business is still in its infancy. There is only hope of it getting better. Try the Char Kuey Teow and Mamak Laksa. Consider going on a weekday. Open up your tastebuds to something new. You might be pleasantly surprised.
We went today and my friend ordered the Assam Laksa, and the waitress asked if he liked sardines. He does, and was very pleased with the laksa, saying that it was well spiced (about "medium") and did finish with quite a strong sardine flavour.
I ordered the lunch special Char Kuey Teow, and found the flavour pleasant but fairly bland. I had expected some Asian spices (and a little chilli) such as I would have found in say a rendang, but there weren't any really.
It only came with 2 prawns and a few pieces of pork, and I didn't spot any fish cake at all. It was a good size serve, just didn't have a lot of flavour.
They have some quite respectable wines by the glass (eg Annie's Lane shiraz from Clare).