Pa Tong Thai
At their restaurant Pa Tong Thai, owners Boonruxsa Sangmanee and Masarat Bumrungpongsinchai – who go by Milky and Hally respectively – showcase popular Thai dishes alongside lesser-known Phuket delicacies. The duo (who also run Pinto Thai Food) first met in their home province of Chumphon, just over 300 kilometres north of Phuket on the Gulf of Thailand, before reconnecting in Melbourne.
The menu is a journey through the area they grew up in, blending the pair’s childhood favourites with bold flavours that encapsulate their heritage. Guests are encouraged to order a range of dishes and embrace the communal spirit of Thai dining. That might look like whole deep-fried mackerel served with fresh long beans, cucumber and cumquat; skewers made from tender threads of marinated pork neck topped with vinegar-soaked shallots and chillis; and – if you’re after something extra spicy – a serving of the jungle curry with capelin, a smelt-like fish that’s fried-to-crisp and doused in yellow gravy.
Dishes more commonly found in Melbourne, including pad thai, pad see ew and tom yum, are also on the menu. And if you feel like upping the stakes, top your tom yum with what’s called “Melbourne-style” fried chicken here – salty-sweet fried chicken thighs sliced into batons and topped with crisp shallots.
On entering the restaurant, you’ll be greeted by Sino-Portuguese interiors – an architectural style blending Chinese and Portuguese design elements commonly seen in Phuket. Cobalt blue walls are adorned with baroque photo frames and vintage plates while chandeliers with tangerine-coloured tassels hang from the ceiling. Dishes are served on vintage crockery, adding to the homely feel of the restaurant.
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