We are back in the saddle after a holiday hiatus and Newtown Thai II is the first of 3 Thai restaurants before we cross Elizabeth Street and begin the run to Missenden Road.
“Look how far we’ve come,” I said to Strop as we sat outside on the pavement sipping our wine. And unfortunately you could see exactly how far we had come – it’s not that far and there aren’t even any bends yet to give the illusion of distance. Obviously more dining is required.
Newtown Thai II is our first sequel and I am a bit wary of seeing the sequel before before the original. Newtown Thai is up the road aways, at 177, next to Guzman Y Gomez. We have eaten there before but it is so long ago I have no memory of the food. They both sport the same kind of painted surfboard signage so I presume there has been a relationship between the establishments at some stage, even if there isn’t at the moment.
It is a balmy Sunday evening and I have been feeling pretty crap with the flu all weekend so I am rather looking forward to a cold glass of wine and some tasty Thai tucker. The greeter and seater turns out to be a Pom in shaved head and yellow tee-shirt. This strikes me as unusual at a Thai restaurant but, you know, it’s the quest, let’s just get on with it. It is such a pleasant evening that we decide to sit out at the street tables, live dangerously and run the risk of smokers. There are a lot of people out and about, family groups and young students away at uni for the first time, having their parents take them out to the King Street strip for a good solid feed. So at least the parents can be sure that young Eric or Erica or whoever, has had at least one meal that week that doesn’t consist of Nutrigrain or pot noodles. As it gets darker the passing parade gets a bit more desperate to make a dining destination decision. There is a lot of neck craning to check out the restaurants and the dishes on peoples tables. Menus are read, discussions are had, and decisions are often avoided so they drift along to the next one. Newtown Thai II seems to pick up more than it’s fair share of this passing trade. It looks safe, it is tastefully decked out – no lime green walls here – and has a sensible name with a bit of whimsy in the II part. It’s plausible. Until you taste the food.
I am disappointed that our regular Thai restaurant randomiser, dish number 37 on the menu, is stir fried hokkien noodles. I’m sure that it was something else, something a bit more Thai sounding, in the online menu. Oh well, rules are rules. Strop heads straight for the specials board and picks duck spring rolls and a pork belly dish for mains. I add an entree called Heavenly Crab that I mistakenly imagine will be soft-shell crab. I mean, what else could it be? Crab meat on a stick. Where the stick is a crabs foot, and probably not the same crab. The spring rolls are ok, but the dipping sauces are ordinary, the clear one for the spring rolls seems to be just sugar syrup. Not a good start, but it doesn’t get any better with the mains. Like the restaurant they look plausible, all glistening green and brown. The noodles smell good too with a smokey, wok-ey smell that has me tucking in straight away. But it is an illusion. The only flavour is salt. And lots of it. The pork belly seems to have been deep fried, is over-cooked, and is also far too salty. There is no delicate balance of complex flavours in these dishes.
I am just relieved that we hadn’t talked any of our friends into coming along to this one. As we finish our wine Strop advises one large family group that is checking out the menu board and our left-overs, to keep on moving, down to Thai La-Ong. Yellow tee-shirt guy asks us how our meal was so we tell him. He seems surprised, but I’m not sure if that is because we are honest or because it is not the usual quality of food. We won’t be going back to find out.
Next up is Thai La-Ong 2 where we know the sequel is related to the original because we watched waiters going back and forth along the footpath carrying various raw ingredients between the restaurants. Hopefully the finished product there will be the same quality as at the original.