12th October 2015
1166 Glen Huntly Rd
Carnegie, VIC 3163
As great as the Thai food scene is getting in Melbourne these days, I feel like there’s still something missing. Although I’ve had a lot of tasty food around town, I’ve yet to have a meal that transported me to the streets of Thailand like Chat Thai did. Yuu Yen is here to fill that gap.
Opened by Cookie-expat Kawee, Yuu Yen is a tiny but homely Thai restaurant just three weeks young (probably more like 5 weeks by the time this is posted though), right by Glen Huntley Station. Emboldened by Cookie’s success, Kawee was keen to bring more of the real Thailand to Australia. ‘We cook what we like to eat!’ he declared proudly.
Though I’m not one for icky greasy spring rolls, the Pulled Pork Spring Rolls ($6.9, 4pcs) were a different breed altogether. The parchment-like skin held five-spice pork in aromatic chunks, with a side of sweet chili for dipping. This is actually a spring roll worth eating.
Fried chicken is my weakness, and although I’m familiar with the Korean, Chinese, Hong Kong, Japanese, and American styles, Hat-Yai Fried Chicken ($7.9, 4pcs) is a novelty. If I had to compare, I would say this is closest to Korean; the batter is hot, crisp, and sparing, fried meticulously so that the chicken is juicy and tender. It is then gently seasoned with fried shallots, and their (relative) lightness meant that you could easily down a plate, dipped in chili mayo, without noticing.
Our mains were kicked off with a glorious Red Curry with Pot-Roasted Duck ($15.9). Moist, succulent slices of duck were cooked in a rich curry sauce, carefully balanced between sweet, creamy, and mouth-numbing spices. The addition of pineapple and lychees to the usual vegetables made it feel extra ‘street’, and it was immensely satisfying with both Steamed Jasmine Rice ($2.9) and Roti Bread ($3.9).
There was also seafood. The Smoked Trio-Chili Fried Fish ($16.9) carried a punch of flavor, the crisp barramundi fillets drenched in a spicy-sweet caramelized chili jam, and the fresh undertone of coriander root. I found the side veggies lacking however; steamed broccoli and cabbage just doesn’t seem to be a fair companion to the vivacity of the fish.
To finish up, we were treated to a plate of Char-Fried Prawns with Fresh Mixed Herbs ($14.9). The prawns were tossed quickly through a sizzling wok, and the resulting crustaceans were firm and bouncy, with a rich smokiness. Herbs and spices of all manner were used liberally, the complex aromas of peppercorn and basil released by the oil and heat. The only thing I didn’t understand was the portion size; there were only 5 prawns in the entire dish, and that was especially odd given that the duck and fish were both fairly portioned.
Although I can’t quite put my finger on what it is, there is something about Yuu Yen that made it special. It was indeed unlike all the other Thai meals I’ve had around Melbourne, and I can definitely taste Cookie’s influence in the bold, complex flavours. It is worth the trip for sure, especially if you’ve been disappointed with the westernized Thai food Melbourne has offered up so far.
Rating: 14/20 – breath of fresh air.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.
Sweet and Sour Fork dined as a guest of Yuu Yen.