229 Chapel St
Prahran, VIC 3181
Sometimes I wonder how non-Melbournians see my beloved city. There are so many things – the rattling trams, the tiny coffee shops, the street performers in drag – that I barely even notice; then I see the tourists stopping and staring with their cameras out, and I realise – Melbourne is one hell of a unique city.
Until you see the menu, Colonel Tan’s could be anything. Walking up the steep stairs, the velvet curtains could easily be pulled apart to reveal a burlesque house. Then you reach the top and see the local band setting up for their gig in the fenced-off band room, and the place suddenly becomes more like an abandoned factory where the kids go to strum their guitars. Finally, you turn the corner and reach the actual restaurant, a lounge filled with a chimerical clutter of pinball machines, a dozen chandeliers, and broken (or not) children’s rides. Not a single piece of the furniture matched, and the squashy couches weren’t even of the op-shop variety; more salvage pieces from the curb. Yep, we’re in Melbourne.
Colonel Tan’s is run by the brains behind Cookie, and the similarities are plain to see – the same modernised Thai menu, intimidating drinks list, and patrons lining up out the door once dinnertime hit. The vibe at Colonel Tan’s is a more casual one though; instead of being a wine bar that targeted the after-work cocktail crowd, this is more of a hip young person sort of place, where the live music starts before night falls. And according to Chris, provides information in the bathroom on what to do in the event that you buy fake LSD. Gnarly.
Service is casual, but errs just on the right side of inattentive. But so long as they keep filling up my glass with delicious fruit-infused water, I don’t care what they do, provided they don’t poison my food.
|Deep Fried Chilli Squid and Sweet Chilli Sauce ($12.5)|
Chris liked the Deep Fried Chilli Squid and Sweet Chilli Sauce ($12.5), but I didn’t so much. I thought that it tasted incredibly bland, and though it was deep fried as promised, there was no crunch, and the batter left a film of grease in the mouth. The squid was decently fresh though, and Chris enjoyed the subtle taste.
|Green Chicken Curry with Rice and Salted Egg Salad ($16.5)|
The Green Chicken Curry with Rice and Salted Egg Salad ($16.5) was much better received by both of us. Though subtle, the curry sauce was fragrant and creamy, its aroma translating well to the generous chunks of chicken. Better still was the wickedly sour relish with chunks of salted egg, contrasting magnificently with the mild sweetness of the curry.
|Bangkok Bolognaise ($16.5)|
But the star of the night was the Bangkok Bolognaise ($16.5), which as another blogger wittily pointed out, sounds more like an exotic STI. Moving away from that repulsive fact, this is a cracker of a fusion dish. Taking the most famous noodles recipes from Italy and Thailand respectively, we were served up a plate of flat rice noodles like you would find in Pad Thai, buried under a spicy Bolognaise-like mince that was then tossed through with chilli and holy basil. There was generous amount of smoke from the wok, as well as a tingle from the spices that built on the palate. And you’ll never catch me saying this again but, the slight sweetness of the noodles topped it all off.
I think I may have judged Melbourne too early, and too harshly. Though definitely westernised, Colonel Tan’s nosh is more than Thai enough to keep me happy. The food is also great value – there was heaps of chicken in our curry, and the bolognaise was more beef than noodle. I’m eager to see if their fat duck noodles are as delectable as the one at Cookie.
And did I mention? Our bill came with these awesome dinosaurs, and they were even kind enough to let me take one home! I named him Jasper.
Rating: 14.5/20 – gnarly thai.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.