Unless you’re rocking up on a rainy day or at 11pm, expect a queue outside Nana Thai-Style Hotpot and BBQ on Bourke Street. You’ll be rewarded with some of the city’s best Thai dishes – some lesser known.
Nuttanan “Mint” Lohayanjaree and Panta “Wan” Thanapaisan both grew up in Thailand but settled in Melbourne after moving here for their studies. Visiting their home country often means enjoying mookata – a hotpot-barbeque hybrid featuring a ring of soup boiling around a grill plate. In 2018, struggling to find it in Melbourne, they launched their own dinner-only pop-up where diners could get a feel for what mookata is all about.
“We actually opened in a carpark [near Parliament], sharing the location with another restaurant,” Mint tells Broadsheet. Soon enough, demand for the unique dish grew, and the pair opened their own restaurant in 2020 with the signature mookata and an expanded menu of dishes from the country’s north-east.
It includes moo joom, a herb-heavy Thai hotpot where you cook your proteins and vegetables yourself, thanks to portable stoves brought to your table. It’s the same deal for the mookata, with the golden grill and moat of soup also fired by the stove. Grease the barbeque with a block of pork fat, then start cooking your meats and seafood (pork neck, belly and liver, bacon, prawn, and calamari). The clear, salty broth is for the noodles, vegetables, enoki mushroom and egg.
There are also more than a dozen varieties of som tum, or papaya salad, on the menu – from plain and simple to versions with fermented fish paste (which Mint likens to anchovies), raw prawn and raw blue crab. The deep-fried pork belly and Mama tom yum (who doesn’t love instant noodles with seafood and spicy soup?) is also popular.
But heed the warning printed on every page – it does get spicy. “We want to do it authentically, that’s why we stick to the authentic taste, which is spicy,” Mint says. “For Thai people, if you’re not gonna make it spicy then they won’t like it. If anyone wants milder or less spice, just let our staff know.”
The drinks list includes Thai milk tea (a sweet and strong drink made with different spices) and “pink milk” flavoured with syrup from a Southeast Asian palm fruit called salacca – both good options when you’re hit with too much chilli. Beers are all Thai, with Singha, Chang and Leo represented, alongside soft drinks and a simple Thai lemon iced tea.
Wan takes charge of the busy kitchen, hidden behind a light box and market-stall facade on the mezzanine. You’ll find Mint working the floor, where the atmosphere is buzzing with conversation, sizzling plates and rolling boils.
Red plastic stools and steel tables imported from Thailand are scattered around the space to emulate the country’s street-food scene. And if you’re lucky, some might be empty when you arrive. Or just keep your eyes peeled on the restaurant’s Instagram – Mint usually lets followers know when there are no queues.
Nana Thai-Style Hotpot and BBQ
169 Bourke Street, Melbourne
0452 645 165