On my recent trip to the Great Ocean Road, I made some delightful discoveries and Thaihouse restaurant was one of the hidden gems I had the pleasure of finding. And I took such a liking to this restaurant that I went back for a second helping after my initial visit.
Located at 18 Pascoe Street, Apollo Bay Thaihouse stands proudly. We were looking for a nice dining place and noticing that Thaihouse was open at 6pm we happily ventured inside. The entrance is pleasing, quite at home with the surrounding sea environment. Once we stepped inside, a smiling waitress greeted us and asked us to pick any table from the empty restaurant. She left us with two thick menus allowing us time to make some executive decisions about most suitable dinner options.
A quick examination of the interior designing confirmed that the décor is quite lack-lustre and the sitting arrangement is very basic, apart from a lovely Buddha statue in one corner. The menu on the other hand was quite extraordinary. In addition to the normal Thai fares there were some intriguing surprises. We contributed quite a bit of time evaluating our options and finally placed our orders to our attentive waitress.
As we waited for our food, the restaurant filled up swiftly as if someone had flicked a magic wand. Our satay chicken appeared shortly. The chicken was quite dry yet tender and fell off the skewers. The satay sauce was sweet and had a lovely peanut flavour. The sauce was drizzled generously over the chicken and then garnished with crushed nuts.
The entrée had upped our expectation and we eagerly waited for our main, spicy apple fish salad. Our main took some time to arrive. Given that almost every table had been taken up by diners, the delay was not unreasonable. The Chef herself brought out the dish and presented it in a neat manner revealing all her pearly whites. The beautiful presentation immediately arrested my attention. The Chef explained that the 2 baby snappers in the dish were locally sourced and were cooked fresh onsite. The whole fish were deep fried and served with a salad of peanuts, sliced crunchy green apple and greens in a spicy sauce.
Imbued by her explanations, I zealously took up a scoop of the spicy salad. The first mouthful was a riot of flavours with the sweetness of the green apple, savouriness of the peanut and the accompanying spicy sauce. The spiciness was done to perfection and the end result was an excellent concoction of one the best salads I have tried. I took a bite of the fish which had a crispy skin enclosing the soft flesh inside. As my tongue tasted the first mouthful, my tastebuds rejoiced at the beautiful flavour of the fish which was lightly infused with the spicy salad's flavour. Despite being deep fried, there was an absolute absence of greasiness and the fish was soft and succulent. Any form of conversation with my dining partner took back seat as each of us concentrated on the sumptuous dish.
The serving size was huge and it was a dish meant for sharing. We soon learnt that the best way to savour the fish was to dig in with bare fingers. Soon only the fish bones remained as we licked our fingers clean.
The Chef came out and invited our comments on the lovely dish. We profusely paid our compliments for this delightful dish. Beaming, the chef shared her inspirations and aspirations with us revealing that she was also the manager of the restaurant. The restaurant was opened a few years back and was quietly thriving in touristy Apollo Bay. She stated that she hailed from Thailand and cooked up a storm in the kitchen with her mother. Mother's recipes as well as her own creations have been added to the menu over the years. I noted she also asked other diners about their food, sharing general chitchats.
Delicious food and great customer service attract customers. So we went back the following night to sample some other delicacies like crispy chicken wontons and Larb Pla. Larb Pla was a different version of spicy apple salad fish with the apple salad being replaced with a different salad. The crispy chicken wontons paled next to the Larb Pla. I found the Larb Pla to be more spicy than the spicy apple fish salad.
We enjoyed almost every dish we sampled at the Thaihouse. But what stole the show was the deep fried fish with spicy apple salad. This dish truly delivered nirvana to our tastebuds.
Exceptional customer service is definitely one of the pillars of success for Thaihouse. Thaihouse is not a fancy restaurant but it is a place where you savour tantalising home made food and then lick your fingers clean. Fabulous food and generous serving sizes as well as reasonable prices earn the Thaihouse a pat on the back and a rating of 4.5 out of 5.
The last time we visited Thaihouse the affable Chef invited us to return when we go back to Apollo Bay, before bidding us her farewell. We will certainly go back.