Easy Tiger

7 Aug

After a month of pre-planning (and still 2 people dropped out – but I am not going to name and shame here…) we finally managed to get all 7 of us old uni mates (DL, OK, CT, TS and of course my DDO partner in crime JL and my love JP) to Easy Tiger, a much loved (Z practically lives there) but not enough lauded modern, Thai inspired eatery located in what is becoming THE culinary hub of Melbourne, north of the Yarra (not that I can really name any culinary hubs on the other side of the Yarra – touche).  The only problem with being a culinary hub is that parking is impossible and after a full 40 minutes of circling the blocks of Collingwood, we had to settle for a permit park and hope for the best.  But I digress.

I had been to Easy Tiger a couple of months back with a Z and Little ‘L’, after much harassment from Z to visit her much loved institution.  A little skeptical at first (everyone who knows me will have heard of my disdain for any type of modern / fusion / deconstructed Asian cuisine of any type), I was pleasantly surprised by the whole package that the place offers – fantastic food, great wine choices, intimate ambience and the accommodating staff who are genuinely excited about the food and making customers happy.  This latest visit was no different – which is refreshing, particularly when lesser institutions make a big fuss about booking changes with short notice (when I called to change from a table of 9 to 7 there was literally no fuss) and late arrivals (turns out we all had trouble parking).

On this occasion the 7 of us were seated outside in the covered and heated courtyard complete with fairy lights. It was a beautiful night to be sitting outside with the chimenea providing just adequate warmth and the spice in the food doing the rest of the heating.

To make things easy we had gone with the banquet option (the banquet is the only option for tables greater than 8, and also on Sunday nights).

First up was the cutest little appetizer called ‘ma hor’ – minced meat and prawn cooked in palm sugar atop a little round of watermelon.  The fresh, crisp taste of the watermelon provided the perfect backdrop to the smooth velvety taste of the palm sugar – the curious little dish was also texturally exciting with the slight crunch of the watermelon blending well with the soft minced meat.

'ma hor'

This was swiftly followed by the betel leaf with prawn, peanuts and fresh coconut – which I will call the  Z special for the amount of times she has mentioned it.  The betel leaf is probably one of two ‘in vogue’ things (along with son in law eggs – but more on that later) that crop up on any modern Thai / fusion / slightly Asian influenced menu.  The version at Easy Tiger is one of the better ones I have had – the leaf is a rich dark green and of a larger size than most, allowing one to properly wrap up the contents and consume without it erupting like a volcano.

Prawns on betel leaves

Oysters arrive next – freshly shucked and served with a red chilli nahm jim (what I would describe as fancy Tobasco), they’re nice enough but not particularly exciting.

Oysters with red chilli

Then we all burn our mouths on the chicken, coconut and galangal soup with shimeji mushrooms (like a tom ka gai), which are presented simply in deceiving double walled bodum glasses.

chicken, coconut and galangal soup

I actually really like the soup which has just enough small chicken bits and the freshest of herbs make it a tasty warming treat.

At this point the group have settled in nicely and polished off two bottles of wine from the predominantly Australian wine list (which offers a solid selection to suit all tastes), and we are all awaiting the main dishes with eager anticipation.  Fragrant jasmine rice (cooked surprisingly well for a non-Asian establishment – thank god for the Asians who introduced the rice cooker to this country!) arrives with two main share dishes – a red curry duck with mangosteen and baby corn and steamed snapper in a lemongrass and ginger broth – and two sides – the iceberg lettuce salad (simple but tasty) and those son in law eggs (one each)!!!  I had tried the son in law eggs on my first Easy Tiger adventure, and this second consumption was no less memorable.

Iceberg lettuce salad

Son in law eggs

Cracking open the softly fried outer shell the yolk oozes out like a river of gold – I like to have mine on some rice to make sure I soak up all of that gooey goodness!  Its amazing how a thing as simple as an egg is transformed into a culinary wonder just by frying it.

The red curry duck is perfectly fragrant, although a bit rich for my liking – and if you don’t happen on the one rogue chilli in the dish then you won’t have a problem, as its not really that spicey.  However if you are the lucky one (as I was), then beware – this chilli will literally set your mouth on fire! There is no easy cure but to drink lots of water (which doesn’t really help) and sit it out (hopefully this happens towards the end of the meal so that you can actually taste all the other dishes!).  Compared to the  green beef curry I tried on my first visit, the duck lacked a little spice (the beef was consistently spicey so if you don’t like it hot then go for the duck), but the mangosteens and baby corn adds textural interest.

Red curry duck with mangosteens and snake beans

The fish was fresh and succulent and the broth was the perfect balance of thai flavours – a little sour, a little sweet and with that quintessential thai herb, lemongrass.

Steamed snapper in lemongrass and ginger broth

Dessert was a coconut jelly with young coconut, pomegranate and puffed rice. The servings were just the right size (after a pretty big meal, we weren’t really wanting to eat a lot more), and the jelly provided the perfect relief to my burning mouth (from that damned chilli!).  The puffed rice and pomegranate added a great texture to the dish (crunchy balls of flavour that burst in the mouth to punctuate the velvety coconut).  This dessert is probably one that looks slightly less interesting on paper but is executed extremely well – on my first visit the duck egg custard looked particularly enticing on paper, but was much less amazing in my mouth (not an execution issue, just not to my palate’s liking).

Coconut jelly with pomegranate and puffed rice

All in all a great night with fantastic company at one of my new favourite places to eat.  It may not have any hats or stars but Easy Tiger has certainly got the approval of DDO and friends!

Easy Tiger

96 Smith St

Collingwood

(03) 9417 2373

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One Response to “Easy Tiger”

  1. TS August 11, 2011 at 2:56 am #

    Nice write-up! I had similar thoughts on the dishes. Reflecting back I think my highlights were the first two appetizers, the ma hor in particular, and the duck curry.

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