When undertaking an Internet search for somewhere to eat up near Doongalla Homestead in the Dandenongs (one of my favourite places to go hiking or to show interstate visitors), I came across this Thai restaurant that seemed to be exceptionally popular with the locals but about which there was little other information available. I usually use the fact that Melbourne is supposedly deficient in good Thai restaurants to hide my lack of understanding of the complexities of Thai cuisine. However, this offered a possibility of killing two birds with one stone, expanding my horizons about Thai food and finding a good new restaurant for later trips to the area.
Located in a Boronia suburban shopping strip, from the outside Mountain Thai doesn't look like much. However, step inside and the setup is very nice. Maybe half a dozen tables in a small but well lit room, minimalist decorations but mirrors on the wall and a few water features giving a feeling of space.
Between the four of us we shared three entrees, the Money Bags (prawns, cabbage, carrot and vermicelli noodles wrapped in rice paper and fried), the Tofu Tod (deep fried tofu topped with tamarind and peanuts and served with sweet chilli sauce) and the Goong Hon Pha (king prawn wrapped in rice paper and deep fried).
Best of the entrees was definitely the Goong Hon Pha. While the rice paper was a little over fried the prawn inside was large and juicy.
The money bags were also good. Sometimes at Chinese restaurants where we have had these they have been a bit bland but again the prawn filling was juicy and generous.
The Tofu Tod wasn't as enjoyable as the other two entrees, with the texture quite chewy and the flavour lacking depth. One thing though about this and the other entrees, the sweet chilli sauce they were served with looked and tasted like it had come from some Asian grocery bottle. I'd suggest that at a restaurant they should either make their own sauce, or the dish should stand on its own without it.
Of the curries we ordered to share the best were the Massaman Beef Curry and the Gang Ga Ree Chicken. The Massaman curry featured very tender beef with cinnamon, cardamom, star anise, potato, carrot, onion and peanuts. Creamy and tasty, the spices added some soft but surprisingly complex overtones through the coconut sauce. My only issue, which was common to all the curries, was that all were mild in flavour and that a little additional chill heat might have helped to bring out the other spices further.
The Gang Ga Ree Chicken was also good. Flavoured with cumin, turmeric, cinnamon and topped with fried shallots, the tender chicken being in larger pieces gave the dish more texture than the other curries but with the similar spice undertones to the Massaman curry.
In contrast I thought the Vegetarian Gang Dang and the Chicken Penang Curry weren't as interesting. In particular the chicken in the Penang Curry was a bit overcooked and not as tender as in the Gang Ga Ree, and the sauces lacked the depth of the other two curries.
By this stage we were moderately full but decided to order two desserts to share. Both of these looked the part, the coconut pudding soft on top but a little denser towards the middle, the kau tom mud (sticky rice and black beans wrapped in banana leaf and steamed in coconut milk) avoiding problems with being over starchy. While lacking any 'wow' factor, perfectly desserts acceptable for a local suburban restaurant.
I can fully understand why Mountain Thai is popular with the locals. It's a surprisingly good local Thai restaurant given its environment, not great but serving well flavoured and unchallenging food presented well. The curries we tried could have used more heat to balance the creaminess of the coconut milk, but the underlying flavours had some surprisingly subtle undertones from the spices used. Certainly more so than you would expect from a Boronia shopping centre restaurant. One thing I would point out to the owners though, the service did come across as a bit surly even though I am sure it wasn't meant that way, and was the worst part of our visit.
Food - 7.5
Ambience - 8
Service - 6
Price - 7
4 Alchester Crescent
Boronia VIC 3155
Tel: (03) 9762 8747