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

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

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
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Thai Town

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

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


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

First Floor, Curtin House 252 Swanston Street, Melbourne

Colonel Tan's

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

229 Chapel Street, Prahran


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

40-44 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne
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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


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

35 South Wharf Promenande, South Wharf

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