BangPop in South Wharf is the latest Thai restaurant to open in Melbourne. Occupying the space formerly home to “The Sharing House”, BangPop focuses on serving Thai street food in a casual environment.
The space is really open and light and suits the food style and stated aim well. The Lego bar from the Sharing House has been retained, and helps to add to the fun vibe of the venue. The tables are long and communal, and the food is designed for sharing.
Friday night was the last night of the soft opening, before the official opening this week, so my fiancée and a friend of ours went down to see what it was all about. What we ordered was perfect for 3 people.
Often, when restaurants attempt to do “street food” from other countries, the result is less than authentic. At BangPop, experienced restaurateur Paul Mathis has hired chef Kam McManamey to take care of the menu, but has also consulted with Yaigum, a Thai street food stall-holder for more than 40 years, with an intimate knowledge of Isaan cuisine (that is, the cuisine of Northeastern Thailand). The result of this is a very authentic menu, which remains focused on Isaan flavours. Another very clear nod to authenticity is the fact that BangPop do not show restraint when it comes to spices – if a dish is meant to be spicy, it will be spicy!
One of the things that really stood out for me that made me realise that what I was going to eat was the real deal was when the first dish came out, and my group was offered a range of condiments including fish sauce and chilli.
Produce is local and seasonal, and only when it needs to come from Thailand (such as with some of the sauces for example), will anything be imported.
The service at BangPop was excellent. The staff were really helpful and attentive, and seemed genuinely excited when explaining the dishes and flavours.
Kai Chae Mae Pla Tod – Marinated chicken spare ribs with nam jin talay and pickled shallots ($12.90)
This was my favourite dish of the night. The chicken was fried, but not at all greasy, and the dipping sauce was divine and really packed a punch.
Num Tok Moo – Pork Salad ($15.90)
This was probably the weakest of the dishes that we had on the night. It was still excellent, but didn’t hit the heights of the other things that we ate.
Yum Pla Foo – Barramundi “cotton” fish salad ($20.90)
I really enjoyed this dish. The cotton in the name comes from the way the fish is served. If you’ve ever eaten pork floss, you’ll know exactly what it’s all about. I’m not really sure how to explain it to someone who doesn’t know what it is. The fish is dried, and has a light fluffy texture, similar to coarse cotton.
The texture is certainly different, and I think that BangPop got it spot on in this dish.
Kang Daeng Phed – 16 hour cooked duck leg red curry with basil, fresh chilli and roasted coconut ($22.90)
This curry was really nice. It was spicy, and the Thai basil and pineapple provided a good counter balance to the spice. The duck was served on the bone, and after 16 hours of slow cooking, it fell right off the bone and was very succulent.
The cocktail list has not been finalised and they were experimenting with a few things on the night. This was very refreshing, and the chilli was definitely prominent, but not overpowering. Clearly I enjoyed it, as I’d already taken a few sips before realising that I hadn’t yet taken a photo. I shared one with fellow bloggers Sharking For Chips and Drinks and James, who I bumped into on the night.
Saku Song Kreuang – Tapioca pudding with mango ice-cream and roasted coconut ($8.90)
I really enjoyed this dessert. The ice-cream had a very solid (in a good way), creamy texture and the roasted coconut added a nice crunch to the dish. The bed of tapioca meant that there were 3 unique textures going on in each mouthful. It worked well and was very tasty.
Song Kreng – Mango ice-cream and young coconut in coconut juice ($10.90)
The coconut juice inside these containers is on the drinks menu, but is also used for the below desert. Less complex than the above dessert flavour wise, it still tasted great and was more of a refreshing dessert.
Being in South Wharf could be a blessing or a curse for BangPop. On the one hand, the South Wharf precinct is still finding its feet, and it’s not an area that people can stumble across – you have to make an effort to go there. On the other hand, all of the early signs are very good, and BangPop could be just the kind of venue that South Wharf needs – a true destination restaurant. I think it’s certainly worth the trip, and will definitely be back again.
35 South Wharf Promenade
Telephone: (03) 9245 9800
Website: TBA. You can check out their Facebook page in the meantime.
Mon – Sun: Lunch 12:00pm to 3:00pm. Dinner 6:00pm to late.