Outcome: Jury’s still out.
Ratio decidendi: Assamm will appeal to Chat Thai enthusiasts looking for something a bit different. If you’re more of a Spice I am kinda guy/gal though, you might struggle to find enough on the menu to will you away from House or Surry Hills Eating House. Main plus is that it’s located centrally in QVB – on the basement level near T2 (Country Road end of the building).
Salient features: dtom klohng.
Scope of discovery: crispy pork belly with water spinach, dtom klohng, shrimp paste chilli with vegetables, herbs and egg battered eggplants, hainanese rice with panko crusted fried chicken, padt ramen, sticky rice and mango, young coconut ice-cream, pandan bird’s nest drink, lodt shot.
Case note: Expectations were duly lowered when the first dish to arrive – crispy pork belly /w water spinach – wasn’t…crispy. In some ways this was unsurprising given this is an offshoot of Chat Thai which tends to be significantly less aggressive with the ‘crisping’ (if that’s a word) of their pork belly relative to Spice I am.
The dtom klohng was my pick of the lot – a spicy hot and sour soup with strong herby undertones complemented with the contrasting textures of crispy fried whiting and soft oyster mushrooms.
The salad was an enjoyable ‘make your own’ experience – san choy bow-esque in that you assembled your own little roll, picking from assorted veg on the platter including eggplant omelette pieces which served as the centrepiece of your creation. The accompanying shrimp paste chilli relish is a must, and for reasons beyond the obvious – it needed some sort of sauce to tie everything together and make it much more pleasant to eat.
On an earlier lunch visit I had sampled the hainanese rice with panko crusted chicken. Rice could have been more fragrant but was as good as could be expected from a place that doesn’t specialise in chicken rice. Dipping the panko crusted chicken in the provided cut chilli-laden soya sauce helped not only to turbocharge the flavour but also to inject a bit of moisture back into the chicken beneath the crust.
My favourite element of the padt ramen was the salty gourami fish. It had more of the crisp and crunch that I wanted from the pork belly earlier and elevated otherwise ordinary ramen noodles stir fried with chilli and holy basil.
Desserts were pleasant but not particularly memorable. Sticky rice with mango is a natural crowd pleaser, especially when mangos are in season as they are now.
The (young) coconut ice cream seemed to be a bit ‘icy’ for my liking and more crucially a tad too sweet which masked the already weak coconut tones. Not sure whether I was missing something but halfway in I was struggling to find the sweet sticky rice described on the menu. Perhaps I had gobbled it up early in haste? Not quite sure but I was more than placated by the generous helping of candied palm seeds in the bowl. Known to most Southeast Asians as ‘attap chee’ (it’s pretty hard for me to describe without making it sound unappealing) – there aren’t many places which offer this in Australia, and when they do they’re often used sparingly.