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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Soi 38

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

Chin Chin

Executive chef Benjamin Cooper may have trained with David Thompson, but he's well and truly established his own style since.

125 Flinders Lane, Melbourne

Village People Hawker Food Hall

This busy restaurant mixes Laotian, Cambodian, Indian, Malay, Burmese and Thai flavours without cutting any corners.

Level 1 127 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
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Dodee Paidang

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

Basement 353 Little Collins, Melbourne

Jinda Thai

Cheap, cheerful and BYO. Winner.

1-7 Fergus Street, Abbotsford

Cookie

One of three outstanding, late-night Thai eateries overseen by chef Karen Batson.

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

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

229 Chapel Street, Prahran

Magic Mountain Saloon

Thai food 18 hours a day. Yes, that includes breakfast. Another winner from Batson.

62 Little Collins Street, Melbourne
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Longrain

The most buttoned-up spot on this list, with service to match.

40-44 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne

Tom Toon Thai Noodle Cafe

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

241 Victoria Parade, Abbotsford

Thaila Thai

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

82 Lygon Street, Brunswick East

Mr Nice Guy Restaurant

Small on space, but assuringly big on sharing and warm Thai hospitality.

Shop J, 535 Little Lonsdale Street (enter via Healeys Lane), Melbourne

BangPop

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

35 South Wharf Promenande, South Wharf
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Rock Sugar

Neon signage and dissolving fairy-floss Martinis. Instagram, here we come.

477 Malvern Road, South Yarra

LadyBoy Dining & Bar

Whether or not you buy into the contentious theme, this colourful Thai eatery is a heap of fun.

394 Bridge Road, Richmond

Tom Phat

It's not remotely authentic, but nor is it trying to be.

182-184 Sydney Road, Brunswick

Son in Law

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

56-58 Johnston Street, Collingwood

Thaiger Rabbit

One of Melbourne’s most authentic Thai eateries.

391 Victoria Street, Abbotsford