MELBOURNE | My list of best Melbourne Thai restaurants was an interesting one to compile. When it comes to Thai food in this city, I see there being three distinct waves, each one elevating and expanding upon the last.
First, it was Thai food very much designed to cater to a western palate. Toned down versions of pad thai, peanut satay sticks, and the like. If you wanted good Thai food in Australia, you got on a plane and flew up to Sydney. Then came the next wave, still adapted to Western tastes, but to a lesser extent, with a wider variety of flavours and influences from across Thailand. Finally, the most recent wave, Thai restaurants run by Thai immigrants, cooking the food they grew up with, with Thai expats being the main audience.
My list, updated as at early 2022, reflects the second and third wave. From traditional to contemporary, familiar to unfamiliar, there’s something for everyone looking for the best Melbourne Thai restaurants to eat at.
Some may argue that only restaurants from the third wave should be included in here. However, that would be to miss out on a whole lot of restaurants that, while not as “authentic” as some might like, are still delicious and great fun. What you can be guaranteed of is that you’ll have a great feed at any of the Melbourne Thai restaurants I’ve included here.
Are any of your favourites listed below? Are there any places that you think should be on the list?
Located on the Yarra in South Wharf, Bang Pop focuses on hawker style Thai food with bold flavours. It’s a fun space, with tasty cocktails that riff off the same theme as the food. It’s tangy, punchy food that’s designed to be shared with family and friends.
When Chin Chin opened in 2011, it was one of the first of the second wave of Thai restaurants in the city. Flinders Lane was yet to become the dining destination that it is today, and the no bookings policy was still a new thing. 11 years on, and there’s still lines to get in.
Yes, some of that is down to hype and reputation, especially when many of the other places on this list are close by and don’t have lines. But you can’t deny that the venue is a whole lot of fun, and that Lucas Group executive chef Benjamin Cooper, who trained under David Thompson, knows Thai food.
The tagline on the Dodee Paidang website says it best – “We serve things most Thai restaurants don’t, Dodee Paidang is not fusion – we offer either traditional-style street food or things we have invented ourselves.” The food here is heavily influenced by the Isaan region in Thailand’s north east.
At both the Little Collins Street and Swanston Street locations, expect delicious food, and some great live music each night.
Isan Soul is where you’ll find head chef Ben Kunchairattana cooking up an assortment of delicious Issan dishes. It’s a region in the North East of Thailand known for it’s bold use of sour and spicy elements.
Arguably the first of the third wave of Thai restaurants to hit Melbourne, there was nothing like Jinda Thai when it opened in 2013. Hidden down a laneway in Abbotsford, Jinda is a lively space, with a great Thai grocery store next door. It’s all about affordable, honest Thai food, designed to share with friends. You’ll have to line up for a table, but it’s worth it.
When it comes to Thai fine dining in Melbourne, Longrain is where you go. The restaurant, which opened in Melbourne in 2005, almost fell victim to the wave of lockdown closures that occurred in 2020, but was saved by restaurateur Scott Pickett. Visit for refined fusion done right – e.g. red kangaroo curry with wild ginger and Thai basil, and Moreton Bay bug cake wrapped in crisp bean curd.
Nana Thai Style Hotpot & BBQ
Nana Thai Style Hotpot & BBQ evokes memories of eating hawker food in street-side spots in Thailand. It’s owned by Bangkok-born Nuttanan Lohayanjaree (aka Mint) and Northern Thai-born Panta Thanapaisan (aka Wan). Their menu draws upon the Central Thai flavours that Nuttanan grew up with, and the Issan flavours on which Panta was raised. Order the signature hot pot, plus a few sides, for a wonderful experience.
Rock Sugar is a modern Thai restaurant that respects the ingredients, traditional techniques and authentic flavours of Thai food, while having some fun. It’s unashamedly fusion, and the result is some tasty food. Ditto for the fun and creative cocktails.
Soi 38 is an Issan Thai restaurant by owners Andy Buchan and chef Top Kijphavee. It’s sandwiched into what was the office near the elevators of a 1960s car park. It feels like a real street food spot in Thailand, and serves up delicious food to match. The hot pot is a must, as are the brilliant BBQ meats and zesty fresh salads.
Son In Law
Named after the classic Thai egg appetiser, Son in Law opened in September 2015, focusing on modern interpretations of traditional Thai food. It’s a great option for anyone who is keen for either traditional Thai food or Thai dishes with a bit of a twist. Their beef massaman is one of the best in town.
For an even more contemporary take on things, check out sister restaurant, Son In Law The Pad, in Melbourne Central’s ELLA development in the CBD.
Bangkok born owner Merica Charungvat opened Thai Tide just before the first lockdown. Despite this, she’s built a reputation for offering up some of the best Thai food in Melbourne. Thai Tide (and it’s seafood spin-off Talay) are influenced by Thailand’s floating markets, and the food is outstanding. Try the tom leng saap hot pot, and the stir fried Darwin mud crab in yellow egg curry sauce, with a side of the tod mun goon.
Thai Town is owned by Thai-born couple Suriya “Tee” Chantarungsarit and Duija “Kae” Sereemanakij (who own nine Thai restaurants in Melbourne and Sydney), and aims to replicate the ambience and deliciousness of the street food markets of Bangkok, Phuket, and Chiang Mai. It succeeds, with a fun, exciting space and food that’s bold, vibrant, and delicious.
Have you tried any of these best Melbourne Thai restaurants? Check out my Melbourne City Guide for more tips on where to eat and drink, and what to do in Victoria’s bustling capital.