You know you are in for something different when you enter the lush grounds of Spirit House.
In the midst of rural Yandina, you enter a gladed rainforest of soaring clumps of bamboo with scatterings of Buddha figures, wind-chimes and temples.
Shaded paths lead to the inner sanctum of Spirit House which is composed of predominantly alfresco dining set around a small pond. Every effort has been made to create an exotic Asian experience, from the charming garden setting to the richly decorated in Asian artifacts and of course by the rich exotic aromas.
Spirit House cuisine is classified as modern Thai (Thai infused with modern classical methods and presentation) and the menu concept is based on a shared dining experience so that diners can sample the rich textures and flavours that so characterize authentic Thai cuisine. Spirit House chefs use freshly sourced local ingredients and pride themselves on careful fastidious preparation.
Our first evidence of this was the carefully crafted entrees we shared. Our party of six sampled seared Hervey Bay scallops, coconut soup of salmon and crispy pork belly with citrus caramel sauce. I'm warning you now, don't even think about your local Thai restaurant as a comparison. Every mouthful is designed to be an experience; a sweet scallop with pungent sauce, a square of roasted pork-belly rendered delightfully sticky with a sweet citrus sauce with grace notes of cinnamon and, and the coup de grace; the delectable coconut soup served in an Asian teapot which is poured over meltingly soft shreds of salmon and mouth-popping herbs and spices.
We ordered five dishes for main course, wondering whether we had over-ordered as one impressive dish after another appeared. We ordered warm salad of massaman lamb belly[/I], coconut prawn lon, Penang curry of confit duck, sticky yellow bean beef shin, and whole crispy fish (snapper) with tamarind chilli sauce. With such a line up of dishes arguably what we were looking for was a variety of flavours, textures and ingredients. This is where Spirit House excels. It is an amazing experience, for instance to tuck into a lamb and mint salad only to find that, while the lamb was flavourful, the mint salad component was out of this world.
Thai cuisine at its finest creates a party in your mouth with various herbs, spices and sauce ingredients combining to surprise and delight the palate. Similarly the Penang curry had many complex flavour layers that napped the well-cooked duck.
Another casserole style dish was the beef shin which received mixed reviews at our table. A very gelatinous cut, some thought it did not deliver a sticky sauce while others happily cleaned the bowl.
The coconut prawn lon was an interesting culinary concept of a prawn based coconut curry sauce to accompany fried fish fillets. Personally not my favourite but again there was none left at the end of the meal.
By far and away the star dish for everyone at the table was the crispy fish with tamarind sauce. Our friendly waiter brought finger bowls explaining that we might want to hand pick the pieces of fish off the bone at the end. We thought this was a little excessive until we tried it. Those finger bowls were put to good use as the last of the meltingly soft fresh fish with its sticky glaze was shredded off the upright bones. Truly memorable.
Did we have enough room for dessert? Well we made room for these exquisite confections. Between us we chose spiced orange tea syrup cake, banana crème brulee, dark chocolate rasberry mousse and finally lime possett. We were all able to sample a mouthful of each, but they were all so good that everyone thought they had trumped with the best choice.
Certainly my lemon possett was delightfully astringent and blended well with a creamy ginger and honeycomb ice-cream and slices of fresh mango. The crème brulee had a satisfyingly generous crust of toffee and was cleverly accompanied by more toffeed caramel popcorn. There was no doubting that the mousse was using real rich dark chocolate as its base and the tea-cake was syrupy and subtly spiced.