Ghin Khao came highly recommended for authentic Thai food. It's in the Swanston Street strip jammed with cheap, student-y and somewhat tasty food joints. I have had more noodle soups at Yoyogi and Gigi over the years than I care to remember. Does that older guy with the shock of fluoro orange hair still work at Yoyogi?
Now, we had gone from being unable to get a booking at Hu Tong to Ghin Khao so it was already on the back foot. For some reason I pictured a very different place than this quick snacky student bar. No music was a bit of a downer. It definitely has a real Thai presence though, from the handwritten note in Thai in the window to the gorgeous automatic prayer-like gesture of thanks the waitress did when she took our beer order. There's a room upstairs but it's a bit lacking in ambiance.
Vegetarian curry puff (kari puff pak), $6.50
These were good - very soft, delicate pastry but still with good crispy bite filled with a sweet vegetable filling. Swiped through creamy peanut sauce and gobbled up with a swig of Chang's beer - yum.
Chicken with fresh basil and chilli (gai phad bai kaprow), $10.90
I love Thai basil and chilli dishes - like the Vietnamese use of turmeric and dill, I found this at first such an odd combination for an Asian dish. It is fantastic, though. This was nice with very tender chicken but nothing on, say, Thaila Thai's.
Soft shell crab & spicy green papaya salad (pu nhim som tum), $15.90
Soft shell crab is a crab that has recently shed its harder exoskeleton and only has a very thin skin that is edible. Now that I have totally turned you off your breakfast, trust me, I am an offal wuss and I looove these. This was good but the batter was quite heavy. I much prefer the very light, salt & pepper-style batter in Vietnamese restaurants, maybe so I can kid myself I'm not eating something deep-fried. The green papaya had been prepared ahead, shredded and soaked for a while in a sweet, vinegary, hot chilli dressing. The other component of the salad was undressed standard baby lettuce mix. It was good but not great.
It may be Thai but Ghin Khao just reminds me of the other student joints along this strip - perfectly serviceable in terms of food but not a special destination or worth seeking out unless you were in the area. That trip up the Hume is looking more and more enticing...
242 Swanston St, Melbourne (map)
Phone: 9663 3345
Hours: Mon-Thu 11.30am-9.45pm, Fri-Sun 11.30am-10pm
Very long, skinny and cramped