Having ventured to Rambutan a few times before, when we saw a Spreets deal offering $70 value for a mere $35 dollars it was a no-brainer. We booked quite a way in advance as the last few times we had been lucky to get any standing room downstairs let alone a table. On this occasion we arrived at 8pm to find the place all but empty – just a few tables were occupied. We were seated upstairs with nice views of the kitchen and were hoping for some peace and quiet compared to the ‘Tiki Lounge’ downstairs where it can at times feel like a nightclub. It was nice to be able to sit and have calm and civilised conversations rather than needing to talk over a dining room buzzing with people – obviously dining mid-week is a little less hectic than at the weekend.
Between the four of us we decided to grab some betel leaves and fish cakes to start and then crack right into the mains. It was a hard decision but really when there are so many great dishes to choose from filling up on entrees would just mean less mains.
Miang (betel leaf) with tea smoked trout & grilled chilli eggplant relish ($4.50 each).
If betel leaves are on the menu Lex and I will order them; always packed full of flavour this time we opted for the smoked trout as Fliss and prawns do not mix. The trout had a really prominent smoke flavour that definitely caught me by surprise. So much more flavour imparted from the tea smoking and well suited to the tart, sour and salty mix of eggplant, lime and fish sauce.
Fish cakes ($12.00).
The fish cakes were quite mild compared to what I am used to, while still rather flavoursome there was a distinct lack of any chilli heat and it was aching for some more kaffir lime leaf to really give the pungent kick you get from great fish cakes. The sauce however was spot on perfect, a balance of sweet, spicy and salty. The sauce alone was enough to really lift the dish and make you want more.
After the entrees had come and gone we sat and made our way through the cocktail menu. The ‘Baked Beijing Apple Martini’ always seems to win amongst our friends whenever there is any indecision as to what cocktail to try next. For me it is the ‘Coconut & Kaffir Lime Daiquiri Carnival’ that gets the nod every time, as it should in a Thai restaurant.
Braised wagyu beef with flat noodle Vietnamese mint & black vinegar sauce ($32.00).
With the restaurant being quiet it didn’t take long for the first of the mains to appear with the wagyu beef and noodles arriving first. A lovely looking broth with large pieces of wagyu beef and some lovely thick flat noodles. This was a noodle dish so luckily I hadn’t had time to load my bowl with rice! The broth was very simple (in a good way) and a great accompaniment to the beef. Silky noodles and melt in your mouth wagyu were a brilliant combination of texture and flavour.
Dry red curry, roasted pork belly with snake beans, grachi & holy basil ($28.00).
Soon after the beef arrived the pork belly turned up and it looked quite amazing. The succulent pork belly just melted in my mouth after a satisfying crunch through the superbly crisp outer. Snake beans, red chilli and deep fried holy basil made up the rest of the dish and they complimented the pork wonderfully in the impressive dry red curry.
Massaman coconut curry of lamb with peanut, mandarin & kumera ($30.00).
At this point dishes started to come thick and fast, no more than 30 seconds after the pork arrived the massaman was on our table and I was scrambling to find room for the bowls. The smell of the lamb in its rich curry was sensational and I got stuck into the massaman right away. The strong flavour of lamb combined with the rich massaman curry was exactly what I was after. The sweet potato was a nice change giving this massaman a good point of distinction from other versions of this curry.
Crispy duck with sweet rambutan, eschallot, garlic & tamarind sauce ($34.00).
The last of the mains, the duck skin was supremely crispy and the flesh was soft but just a tad dry. It didn’t jump out with any spectacular flavours like the other dishes had as there was only a small amount of the tamarind sauce that was a little weak. I missed out on getting any of the rambutan so maybe it was exactly what the dish was lacking.
Once again Rambutan was able to deliver and with a helping hand from Spreets we came away feeling like we had hit the jackpot. Insanely good cocktails and some truly wonderful dishes. It is good to see restaurants like Rambutan getting on-board with the coupon fad that is going on as it gives everyone a great excuse to go out and eat some great food that they may otherwise not have considered.
96 Oxford Street
Darlinghurst NSW 2010
(02) 9360 7772