iSpicy | iSpicy 2
Time to continue my hunt for good Thai food in Melbourne! Today, I’ll be covering two sister branches from a reasonably well-known name in the Thai restaurant scene: iSpicy.
Iced coffee $3.00
First the Hawthorn branch. You could call this place The Angmoh’s (Fakegf’s partner) goto lunch spot for a good, spicy Thai feed. A number of my fellow blog buddies also like it here. It’s a hole-in-the-wall kinda stall inside a Hawthorn mall.
Fatbee and I lunched here after I picked him from work on a Thursday. He started off with a pick-me-up iced coffee (a much-needed hit for shift-workers), which came scarily knock-your-socks-off sweet. If the caffeine doesn’t wake you up, the sugar definitely will!
Chinese broccoli w pork on rice $10.00
While you probably could order things that are slightly more elaborate here (liked deep fried pork hock / whole barramundi), what’s most popular are their one-dish meals. The menu’s at the counter… walk up, make a quick decision and order. The girl would normally also ask how spicy you’d want it, and of course I’d tell her “Thai spicy!!” (which, by the way, is a very telling sign that I’m soooo not Thai… ha ha!).
My dish of Chinese broccoli stir-fried with pork did not disappoint. It was a generous serve and spicy enough to make me happy, my nose dribbled a bit and I could feel the chilli hotness reaching the depths of my ears a little. If I had a cold with a runny nose that day, it would’ve cleared!
Cashew nut sauce w tofu on rice $9.00
Fatbee once again went on a vegetarian slant with a tofu dish, which came less spicy in a sauce that’s sweeter. Flavoursome in its own right… but I preferred my punchier, spicier selection.
I’m a fan of this stall’s cheap and cheery one-dish-meals. If you do visit, you have to try the fried pork belly with Chinese broccoli on rice. For those of you who are scared of spiciness, remember you can always dictate how spicy you want the dishes to be.
It didn’t take long before I organised a catch-up meal with friends at iSpicy’s bigger sister in Richmond.
The restaurant has two floors of seating and the menu is more restauranty shared-dishes style, perfect for bigger groups and quiet(ish) catchups. It’s also quite cute that many of iSpicy’s more popular dishes have been depicted as illustrations against one of it walls.
Som Tum – Green Papaya smattered in the mortar and pestle with lime juice, dried shrimps, green beans, birdseye chilli and tomatoes 10
Thai Fish Cake – made from blended rich, red curry paste, kaffir lime leaves and sliced green beans 8
We started off with a few classic entrees of papaya salad (sans salted crab) and Thai fish cakes. While I enjoyed the fragrant fish cakes, the som tum only afforded a mild creeping spiciness on the tongue.
Mixed Vegetables With Oyster Sauce 16
BBQ Stuffed Calamari – Marinated minced chicken stuffed in calamari grilled served with spicy lemon sauce 14
Next up, an obligatory mixed vegetable dish and a rather interesting dish of a whole calamari stuffed with minced chicken then lightly barbecued. Both dishes, while decent, felt a little more catered towards the Western palate.
Pork Shank – slowly three hours cooked in five spicy herbs then deep fried until crispy then serve with spicy sauce 25
We of course also got a serve of one of iSpicy’s signature dishes, deep fried pork shank. So very sinful, crispy and delicious.
Complimentary Thai Milk Tea (Comes with the Pork Shank)
The flesh and fat inside was still very soft and unctuous. And because this platter sat in front of me the whole night (plus I’m not afraid of fat), I ate more than the lion’s share!
Steamed Whole Fish and Spicy Lemon Sauce 28
To help assuage some of the calorific guilt from that giant hunk of shank, we got a whole steamed barramundi. I was initially skeptical about it… coming with a ‘spicy lemon sauce’. But it actually turned out pretty good, almost like it has been steamed in a light tom yum-style broth.
Turmeric Fried Chicken – crispy fried chicken marinated in coriander roots and garlic. Served with sweet chilli sauce 18
Garlic Soft Crab – deep fried soft crab topping with crunchy garlic 23
And finally, a few more supporting dishes… both of which were not that great. The turmeric fried chicken was probably a lost-in-translation kind of dish. It contained no turmeric whatsoever and tasted more like it was marinated in cumin (or coriander seeds) then over fried into odd-tasting nuggets of dry and hard chicken. And both dishes came deep fried with too much flour and batter.
Thai Coconut Rice Pancake 8
On a more positive note, the desserts here were good. These petite, fresh-made coconut pancakes were a delight to teeth into. The rich coconut cream inside the still-hot coconut cakes had a nice savoury element to it. Everyone loved it.
Sticky Rice Durian 10
And here’s the dish of the night. Instead of the usual mango sticky rice motif, they offer durian with sticky rice here. Durian is a pretty awesome fruit with a pungent, creamy flesh… if you have not heard about it, I’ve written a whole post dedicated to Durian, The King of Fruit.
But why this dessert was so good here was because they’d actually used the flesh from fresh durians rather than from its essence. And the savouriness in the coconut milk-laced sticky rice help cut through the richness of the durian.
There were a few hits and misses with the food we ordered here, but I have to concede that maybe we didn’t pick the dishes sensibly (there were no soups or curries). Some of the dishes also felt a bit ‘toned down’, although serving durian in its own right suggests the opposite.
All that said, I personally think I’d just stick with visiting this place for its one-dish-meal lunches, assuming the quality and spice levels will be pretty similar to its little sister in Hawthorn.