A Trip Down to Suwan Thai

Thursday 21 October 2010 – a public holiday in Hobart, The Royal Hobart Show Day. It is a family carnival like festival, with livestock, wood chopping, rides, show bags etc, which really is not my cup of tea. The good thing is that it falls on a Thursday – a nice one day break after 3 days of work, and then return for 1 day work before the weekend. It doesn’t surprise me that some people will be calling in sick tomorrow to make it a long weekend. The more responsible workers will take a day off their annual leave, and those with time in-lieu or flex days will take that extra day off. For me, I will definitely go back to work. No work, no pay for me.

Today was an exceptional sunny blue sky day in Hobart, with mild temperature. In the past 3 weeks, we have been riding a ‘yo-yo’ unpredictable weather patterns. Cold, wet, mountain snow a few days to nice, sunny and mild weather. One never knows when it may rain or shine. Some days, I will look outside my office window. It looks nice and sunny, then 5 minutes later it’s windy, rainy and icy cold! I will usually wait for the moment when it shines again, then dash out for a quick 10 minutes high power walk to my car to go home. There is no shelter to my car. Umbrella at times is of no use. The wind is too strong and will blow the umbrella inside out! Then I get soaking wet and look silly carrying that inside out pathetic umbrella. LOL.

So this afternoon my partner and I decided to make a trip to Hobart for lunch. We were planning to have a nice seafood platter for two and a nice bottle of sauvignon blanc at Blue Eye seafood restaurant in Salamanca Place. A beautiful day calls for a beautiful meal sitting outside soaking in some rich Vitamin D! But, unfortunately when we got there, Blue Eye is shut!! Never mind. There are plenty of eating places in Salamanca Place. My partner suggested the Thai restaurant – Suwan Thai, in Salamanca Place, on a second floor in an arcade. We walked passed the place a few times when they were newly opened a few years ago. But we have never try it. Not until I have read a recent review in my fellow blogger’s website, Rita’s Bite. She rave about the food and the place. Well, I have to admit that Rita is right. It is one of the most authentic Thai food I have ever tried in Hobart, and we are really critical about a good Asian food. I have been to a few, but none of them is as good as Suwan Thai – in terms of taste and flavour. There is nothing pretentious about the place. Do not be deceived by the outward appearance of the restaurant from the ground floor of the arcade, or walking up those dark and dirty, worn out looking carpet stairs to the restaurant.


The restaurant sign stuck to the yellow brick wall at the side of the restaurant entrance is not flash either.

But don’t turn back and walk down the stairs. This is one of those place where you will put the decor behind your mind, and taste the sensation of a beautifully cooked Thai dishes by the chef. He is the father of the girls serving our table. It is a family run restaurant. The grandma was sitting on a small chair behind the side of the cashier counter. She was still sitting there after we finished our lunch about 2 hours later. She had hardly moved. I guess she is a kind of watcher to see if the customers have some service request.

The restaurant has two seating areas – the immediate dining room as you enter is at the front overlooking the ground floor arcade. It is bright with skylights above. The other half of the dining room is on the inside, where the kitchen and front counter are located. That part of the dining room is a bit darker and moody. That is where the grandma was sitting and she was looking straight at our table. Keeping an eye on us. The choice of music they played does not suit the place. But what really excites me was that I could hear them speaking in the most beautiful, flowery and romantic language in the entire Asia – in Thai, of course. Their voices were soft and gentle.

When we arrived there was a table of three and two tables of two in the bright section of the dining room. There was another 2 tables inside. Half of the patrons are Thai people. That was a good sign. The table of two – husband and wife, directly behind my partner seemed to enjoy their meal. I heard the wife saying to the staff that they really enjoyed their meal. After they paid the bill at their table, the husband came over to our table!

He said to me, “I think I know you from somewhere”. I drew a blank face, but then my partner said, “yes, I remember you!” The funny thing was that he came over to talk to me – that he knew me from somewhere. But, then it turned out that my partner knew him from his old workplace in Hobart. But, this gentleman insisted that he came over because he knew me! It took us 5 minutes before we made a connection that we used to work at ABC in Sydney! LOL. Weird. Hobart is indeed a small place.

Back to the restaurant. After a bit of catchup with an ex-colleague, we ordered our meal. My partner could not take his eyes away from this wall picture.

He said to me, “it’s a bit strange to have that picture on the wall…” “…don’t you think?” We had a bit of a laugh. Imagine some parents with their young children sitting at a table next to the picture. What if the kids ask the parents what that picture means!

Anyway, it didn’t take long for our entree to arrive – Curry Puff. Cost $8.50.

It was good – the pastry was nice, fluffy in the middle and crunchy on the edge. The stuffing of finely diced potatoes and chicken tastes just right, not overpowering in curry flavour, and went well with the nice, sweet and slightly tangy creamy peanut sauce. The sauce was utterly irresistible. I continued to lick the little spoonful of peanut sauce even after I finished the curry puff.

The mains. We waited for quite a while. While we waited, we had a bottle of Four Sister Sauvignon Blanc. Cost $28.00, which was reasonable priced. This wine is a perfect match for most spicy Asian dishes.

I think we waited for 20 – 30 minutes before our mains arrived. It was the Hor Mok – a steamed seafood dish slowly cooked wrapped in aluminum foil. This dish needs time to cook properly.

We were surprised at the size of the dish. It was generous. Cost $22. Lots of chunky seafood – mussels, scallops, king prawns, fish. The dish was steamed in red curry paste mixed with whisked eggs, kaffir lime leaves, Thai basil leaves. There were few small slices of Chinese cabbage leaves at the base of the dish. It was as good as any Hor Mok you can find in Bangkok streets. It was packed with lots of flavour with the aroma of kaffir lime leaves and basil leaves. The dish was not toned down to suit a westerner palate. It was spicy enough to leave a tingling sensation at the back of my tongue.

The next main was a deep fried barramundi with chili sauce and basil leaves, Pra Lard Prig. Cost $38.90.

It was presented as a whole fish dressed with the sauce. A very colourful dish with diced red and green capsicum, chopped onions and basil leaves. It was sweet, spicy and salty. There was a slight taste of Thai shrimp paste in the sauce, which gave it a nice tangy flavour. All the flavours were there. The only disappointment of this dish was that the fish itself was a bit tough. Before I ordered the dish, I did asked if the fish was fresh or frozen since it was marked on the chalk board as “fish of the day”. I was told it was a frozen fish. I was happy that she told me the truth, and was happy to order the dish. I knew it will not be fresh, and that you can get by using frozen fish in this type of dish. However, I did not expect the flesh to be quite tough. It was probably over fried. Ideally, I would prefer a fresh fish. This was just a minor setback, and will not stop me from going back for a second visit or even more.

The third main was a stir fry beef with broccoli, Pad Lui Suan. Cost $18.50.

We were almost full before we could even attempt this third dish. We both had a taste and asked to doggy bag this dish with a bit of rice to take home. This dish was stir fried with garlic, ginger, shallots, lemongrass, spring onion, coriander and a bit of chili. Again, it has all the rounded flavour of a good, Thai dish.

I am glad we have finally tried the food at Suwan Thai. It is true to its claim of an authentic Thai restaurant. Definitely one of the best in town. They even have a Facebook.



12 responses to “A Trip Down to Suwan Thai

  1. I am SO pleased you had a good meal there Victor. At last I can relax again! Did you happen to look upwards to the ceiling of Galleria, at the scuplted swans floating up on high which my dad was commissioned to make when Galleria first opened?

  2. Sounds wonderful Victor. I’ll try it this weekend.
    Now all we need is an authentic Vietmanese eatery. You’ve got to laugh at having that painting on a restaurant wall, but it is a very peaceful and romantic one.

    • LOL! Dillon. The painting does look romantic, but not with the skylight and surrounding bright lights!
      I miss Vietnamese food as well. When I go to Melbourne, I have to stop by Richmond for my Vietnamese food.

  3. Funny – we went there for the first time too last week. It was my husband’s birthday, and he hadn’t had a good Thai meal since we moved to Tasmania 5 months ago. I agree with you – the food at Suwan Thai is good. Best red curry I’ve had in many years. Yum. Yes, now we need a good Vietnamese too 🙂

    • LOL, Susan. Bring on a Vietnamese Restaurant, pleaseeee!!! I wonder why the Hmong has not thought of opening a restaurant (or maybe there is one, but I am not aware) – their food are quite similar to Thai, Chinese and Vietnamese. A nice cross in cultural cuisine.

  4. Thank you Victor. I was recommended Suwan Thai Rest. but hesitate no more after reading your comments.
    Penangite in Hobart.

  5. The food looks delicious, but I guess not ideal location at all. The painting looks a bit odd to me also, especially hanging at a restaurant, but I think the image supposed to be angels.

  6. Victor
    Pretty dissappointed with Suwan Thai: I found the dishes hot (powdered chilli) but lacking fresh flavours of quality Thai. The Duck with chilli jam sounded wonderful but was all salad leaves with a few shreds of BBQ duck skin and very little meat. Certainly not worth $25 .The worst dish was deepfried squid with a sauce that tasted suspiously like 1000 island dressing. The rice was dry and undercooked. They were busy I guess. So it is popular.
    A positive was the chicken wrapped in pandanus leaves, but the bottled sweet chilli sauce was dissapointing. Freshly made is so nice.
    Oh well the hunt continues for a good Thai or Viet place in Hobart.

    • Oh no! Sorry, Dillon that you didn’t enjoy the food there. I actually like it that I went there for lunch and had a couple of takeaway for dinner.

      I had Pad Thai, which I thought was good. Though the noodle used was most likely dried noodle, since freshly made noodle is almost non-existent here. Then, a second visit for lunch, I had Pad See Ewe with Chicken and Kai Tiau Moo Sab (Thai omelette with pork – not on menu). Both were very tasty. Again, the noodle was likely a dried noodle. The omelette traditionally use pork mince, but he used pork pieces. The only comment is they were both too oily. The takehome was Pad Prik Chicken – spicy, creamy and just right for me, and Thai Suwan Beef special – just okay. Overall, I am still happy with the dishes.

      I also found out that they were the new owner, took over last year. And, you are right – Fri and Sat night always full and they are probably the only place I know of that has a booking policy of charging customer $10 if the numbers on the night is less than what was originally booked (for more than 6 people).

  7. I should give them another go then.
    I’ll stick with the Thai curries and the dishes you said were good.
    I am so envious of you flying off to Penang.
    I’ve never been but have had friends rave about the place and what from what I’ve seen on food programs, it’s a must place to visit.
    Have a great trip and come back nice and chubby. lol


    • Dillon – you are making me worry a bit here. What if you don’t like it again? When I go out to an Asian eatery in Hobart, I said to myself, “it’s only Hobart!” so I won’t get overly disappointed.

      I still think Suwan Thai is the best Thai restaurant in Hobart. It’s only 1 1/2 yrs old under the new management. It has already proven to be very popular, especially with Thai nationalities. The dishes are spicy as they should depending on what you order. As for Thai noodle dishes, just like in Thailand, I like to add extra seasoning – fine sugar, fish sauce, cut green chilies in vinegar and dried chili flakes which comes in a traditional Thai stainless steel square holder with four little containers with lids. This is how Thai people do it when they eat Pad Thai or Pad See Ewe. I had some disappointment in some dishes – like dried noodle instead of fresh noodle, frozen seafood instead of fresh seafood. But balancing some of the flaws, plenty of fresh herbs were used in the dishes for that added flavour – like kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, sweet basil which gave the dishes a true, aromatic flavour that resembled Thailand to me. Having said this, I can’t wait for our trip coming up – we are going to Bangkok for the weekend from Penang. So Suwan Thai is a warm-up for me in the past 3 weeks! 🙂

      Btw, Dillon – I have been admiring your home cooked dishes you posted in your FB. They looked so delicious. I guess lots of Indian (or is it Sri Landan), Middle Eastern or Moroccan influence??

      Re Penang. We are really looking forward to going home for a visit, and taking a break from work. I am sure if and when you and your family visit Penang, you will not be disappointed. Esp the food! It is a food haven.

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