Admit it, you’ve been dying to hear what I think of Longrain, one of the city’s most venerable contemporary Thai restaurants. It’s a dining experience; it’s about the service, the ambience, the wine and, most importantly, the quality of the food.
So most of my work crew were excited to go have our Christmas lunch here the other week (yes, we’re a little late, December was too busy for lunch!) and I was too. I had come here only once before, after trying numerous times on a Friday night to get a spot – it’s extremely popular. Best bet is to always book a table, but you’re going to need a number of people to do so; they only take bookings for Friday lunch (in fact, the only day they’re open for lunch) and for larger groups. So they suggest you put your name down on the waiting list as with so many other places in the non-booking zone of the CBD (this really irks me) – or you can just come early as I did that time.
So imagine our collective disappointment that Longrain did not live up to our expectations.
We waited from 12:30 until 1:15 before anything was served. We ordered drinks (which were also rather slow in coming) and carried on our work-related conversations around two of the large round tables. There are both round tables (to cater to larger groups) and long, extremely wide tables where you can share space with other people. Personally, I don’t mind doing this, but I do find it kind of weird when the table is so wide that you can’t sit opposite your partner, you have to sit next to them. Yes, it’s intimate, but it also makes for a very awkward dinner for 4.
Finally, the Betel leaf. This is Betel leaf, topped with smoked trout, chilli, roasted galangal, garlic & trout roe.
Okay, you got me. It’s not. It’s the vegetarian alternative. Given that the lunch banquet was 3 seafood dishes and only two meat dishes, I was curious to try what the vegetarian alternatives would be for the seafood dishes, so we requested this when we booked (we also have two other vegetarians who gave their preferences with mine). The betel leaf was a sticky and sweet starter, so delicious. I think everybody was just starving by this stage and was glad to get some food on the table. They substituted in pomelo (EDIT: not grapefruit as I originally thought!) for the fish (watch closely, it’s like a game of cards, you never know when the pomelo is going to come up next!)
So then, the second course was the Eggnet with pork, prawns, peanuts & sweet vinegar. And what do you know, back comes the pomelo. This is a pretty interesting dish though, it’s crispy and quite fresh, the vinegar that comes with it isn’t so much sweet as I’d expected, but it truly made the dish.
So at this point we’ve had some food at least. That’s a start. The others got this delicious Char grilled Spencer Gulf prawn with yellow bean soy & lime. By all accounts (and believe me, there were many) this was one of the best, if not THE best prawn dish my collegues had had in a long time. The comment was made: “If only we could have 10 more of these, we’d be set”.
Disappointingly, I was told that instead of the prawns, the vegetarian alternative was another betel leaf. Oh, lucky me. More pomelo.
At least after this, things started to heat up. I thought that now we’d passed the seafood section, we’d get some real entertainment. Out comes the Slow cooked peanut curry of Cape Grim beef with coconut cream & Thai basil. In some random stuff-up I’m now told that vegetarian has been ordered for me for the full banquet. I should’ve just said I was allergic to seafood. But in good grace (well, I was rather jolly and tipsy) I accepted this opportunity to explore what other alternatives they would supply.
Yeah, crisy green leafy curry, with tofu. I ate about half of it and then some of the beef curry. Both were delicious and also somewhat different and I actually enjoyed both. I hate tofu (as you all know) and was surprised that it was rendered so deliciously in the curry sauce. In my opinion though, the curry was nowhere near spicy enough. Turn up the chilli dial!
And finally, the Caramelised pork hock with chilli vinegar & deep fried eschalots. I received a deep fried tofu dish as the vegetarian alternative. As much as I try not to admit it, pork is delicious. When done well, pork dishes can silence even the fussiest of eaters. This one was on the good side, but not incredible or amazing.
In a complete 180 degree turn from my usual tofu-bashing tirades, I LOVED this tofu. Not sure what they did or how they did it, but the deep fried (but not oily) cubes of melt-in-your-mouth silken tofu was just spicy enough and was accompanied with enough fresh herbs and deep fried eschalots to warm the coldest tofu-hating heart. If you could ever believe it, I chose the final tofu bit over the last pork portion
So that was it, and across the board the feeling was that the lunch fell a little flat on its face. Why? The service wasn’t great. 45 minutes to wait for food? A little rich. The waitress who served us was condescending (yes, I’m aware that I’ve ordered vegetarian but that I’m trying the meat dishes, you think I don’t understand what I’m eating?) and whilst she was dilligent, maybe she was a little too full of her own expertise (when suggesting wines). A few others mentioned to me they were a bit disappointed with the service – we all eat out regularly in the city and understand what good service means.
We had enough food, that was for sure, with asian greens and rice on the side with the ‘mains’ (the curry and the pork) – even had brown rice for good measure (very pleased about this). But once we were done, we were sipping away at our wines wondering what small sweets we’d be served up for dessert. That’s all this banquet is lacking – some quality desserts.
Not to mention some real alternatives for vegetarians, or heck, even a vegetarian dish. Pomelo and tofu are now banned for at least a month.
Value for money: 7/10 (last time I think we paid $50 a head, had starters, mains and one dessert, including wine)