Salty, spicy, sweet, and sour. These key flavours appear in just about every Thai dish there is, regardless of whether it comes from the country’s seafood-loving south, or the herb- and root-happy north.

Simplicity isn’t something Thai chefs have much time for. They’d never drizzle olive oil on tomatoes when they could use chilli, salt, lime juice, lemongrass and galangal instead. Maximum flavour is the goal, though everything needs to be kept in balance.

Melbourne’s Thai restaurants seem to have adopted this approach for food and aesthetics. There are a few quieter spots around, but on the whole they’re a noisy, vibrant bunch, with neon lights and colourful cocktails to match.

We may not be able to eat our pad thai with tropical ocean views, but these lively alternatives (with serious food) do just fine.

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Chin Chin

Restaurant

Executive chef Benjamin Cooper trained under Australian David Thompson, the most accomplished Western chef in the world in the realm of Thai food. Cooper’s high-definition curries and other staples reflect this background, but his personal style is slightly more malleable and crowd-pleasing – two qualities that are largely responsible for Chin Chin's persistent queues.

125 Flinders Lane, Melbourne

Dodee Paidang

Restaurant

Affordable, street-style Thai, by way of Sydney.

Basement 353 Little Collins, Melbourne

Cookie

Bar

One of two outstanding, late-night Thai eateries overseen by chef Karen Batson, another Westerner who has deep reverence for the foundations of Thai cuisine.

First Floor, Curtin House 252 Swanston Street, Melbourne
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Colonel Tan's

Restaurant

Visit infamous nightclub Revolver in more regular hours to get another fix of Batson's food.

229 Chapel Street, Prahran

BKK

Restaurant

Small, lively and theatrical, this barbeque-powered Thai restaurant is a top spot to try dishes from all over the country, paired with highly complementary beers, wines and cocktails.

Level 3 270 Lonsdale Street (enter via Drewery Lane), Melbourne

Jinda Thai

Restaurant

A friendly Thai island on bustling Victoria Street.

1-7 Fergus Street, Abbotsford

Longrain

Restaurant

Since 2005, this CBD restaurant has been at the forefront of modern Thai dining. Now under the stewardship of star chef Scott Pickett, it’s resharpened its focus and feels as good as ever.

44 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne
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Soi 38

Restaurant

Walk down a CBD laneway and into a concrete parking garage to find this Thai street-food eatery serving a boat noodle dish with a cult following, tom yum soup, laksas and Bangkok-style coffee and tea.

38 Mcilwraith Place, Melbourne

Thai Town

Restaurant

Get pantry staples such as salted egg cakes and durian crisps, or grab seat among 200 other punters for charred pork skewers, tom yum soup, boat noodles and beer towers.

Shop 25 Artemis Lane, Melbourne

Isan Soul

Restaurant

Step off Bourke Street into this lively two-storey eatery, where staple dishes from the Thai region of Isan pack flavours of extreme heat and sourness.

98 Bourke Street, Melbourne

Tom Toon Thai Noodle Cafe

Restaurant

Another budget-friendly stalwart in the same neighbourhood as Jinda.

241 Victoria Street, Abbotsford

Thaila Thai

Restaurant

Quick service, generous mains and $1 corkage make this a good choice for big groups.

82 Lygon Street, Brunswick East

BangPop

Restaurant

A big, high-ceilinged hall with an expansive menu to match.

35 South Wharf Promenande, South Wharf

Son in Law

Restaurant

What'll it be? Mum's classic recipes? Or fusion?

56-58 Johnston Street, Collingwood

Thaiger Rabbit

Restaurant

One of Melbourne’s most authentic Thai eateries.

391 Victoria Street, Abbotsford

Thai Tide

Restaurant

This CBD eatery offers traditional Thai and has an extended takeaway service that infuses Australian seafood with the flavours of Thailand.

171 Bourke Street, Melbourne