Tom Phat

Posted on December 17, 2012

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My friend offered to take me out to a nice ‘Thai’ place for dinner near her place last week, and I couldn’t suppress my surprise when she took me to Tom Phat (184 Sydney Road, Brunswick VIC). They do dinner here? For some strange reason, I only associated Tom Phat with breakfast. I think it might be because I’ve only ever had breakfast there in the past. But for the record, they also do lunch and dinner.

Tom Phat interior

Tom Phat interior

The theme is modern South East Asian flavours. It definitely has Thai influences, but Tom Phat also draws on other South East Asian flavours including the neighbouring Vietnamese, and this is perhaps more evident on their breakfast menu. The owner of Tom Phat even cites Vietnam as the location of her favourite Asian meal. The venue has expanded since I last dined here a couple of years ago, it now occupies two shop fronts with a little door way connecting the areas.

The vibe here is funky and chilled. The decor relies heavily on wood and behind one wall is a monochromatic mural of a little hut amongst some cliffs. The counter and kitchen run along the left hand side of the venue. Most of the seating runs the right hand side of the first shop front and in the newer dining room. And on that night, I discovered that the large window in the front actually opens up completely – a fantastic feature for the summer nights approaching.

Tom Phat front window

Tom Phat front window

For starters we went with corn fritters ($8). These corn fritters depart quite a bit from the way you’d usually have them for breakfast. These were especially decadent, they were deep fried. Dipped in batter, fried until they’re golden and crispy and finished with a sweet and light chilli sauce. Yum.

Tom Phat corn fritters

Tom Phat corn fritters

Both mains were ordered from the specials menu. First up was the twice cooked duck in a mandarin sauce and wok greens (~$25). Crispy skin and tender meat wrapped in a seductively sweet sauce. The greens were still crunching and had that lovely ‘wok breath’ fragrance from being cooked quickly at a searingly high temperature. This dish was perfectly complemented with steamed rice ($2 per bowl). It was so tasty, I don’t think my friend and I even bothered to look up to talk while we were munching on this dish.

Tom Phat duck special

Tom Phat duck special

It was to be the silence before the storm. Ok, I’m exaggerating a touch there, but we did get into quite a spirited discussion when the next course arrived. The eye fillet in massaman curry with a side green mango salad ($28) left us with very mixed feelings. Individually, all the elements were quite good, minus the curry sauce – it was served lukewarm, almost cold, which is odd for a South East Asian curry. That aside, the 3 mini eye fillet steaks was cooked with perfect grill marks and wonderfully medium, still pink in the middle and very tender. The salad was easily the winner for me, it was fresh, full of flavour and had a great spark of fire. I’d happily devour a whole dish of that on its own. But together with the mini steaks and the curry sauce, it was a bit weird. We found that as a whole, the dish didn’t work, the different elements and flavours didn’t complement each other. The curry would have worked better served hot with chucks of beef cooked through it, not how it was served as 2 separate elements. So overall we found it very odd combination, but assessed on their own, the steaks and the mango salad were pretty fantastic.

Tom Phat eye fillet special

Tom Phat eye fillet special

Service on the night was friendly and efficient. Now into its 4th year of business, Tom Phat has established itself as a local favourite. There was a steady stream of customers walking through the door on that weeknight, and all were managed without the kitchen or the waitstaff being overwhelmed. Tom Phat definitely delivers on its promise of strong South East Asian flavours with a modern flare. It’s worth a try.

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