Eating with the AU: Son in Law - Collingwood (Melbourne)

All you foodies out there, it’s time to get ready for a flavour explosion. The buzzing inner-urban haven of gastronomy, Collingwood, has received a new fun and cheeky venue that is sure to have your mouth watering in no time. Recently opened on Johnston Street, Son In Law is serving traditional Thai dishes with a creative twist, playing on the notoriously delicate relationship between in-laws that is well known throughout Thai culture. This is a place where guests are invited to make themselves at home and get fed just like family, while mother makes the rules and the son-in-law tiptoes around, finding ways to not disturb the balance.

Son In Law is the brainchild of Tony Rungpradit and his wife, Oh, who previously owned and ran Chapel Street favourite, Ayatana. “We’ve decided to create a fun venue where guests not only get a relaxed, laidback atmosphere, but can feast on delicious food that is authentic with a modern twist,” says Tony. Indeed, this kitsch eatery in an otherwise grungy belt of Melbourne reflects the flair of Thai culture, embodying all the wonderfully characteristic components that epitomise everything about sum rap Thai (the way Thais eat).

The shopfront oozes with casual-street cool, featuring sleek typeface and a zeitgeist aesthetic. Inside, edgy hip-hop beats are balanced by elegant Edison lighting and warm, summery hues. Here, you will find timber tables offset by a mixture of wooden stools and white steel chairs reminiscent of hawker-style. In addition, the venue boasts an inviting outdoor seating area, as well as a bar for drinks and snacks.

The menu places an emphasis on lightly prepared dishes with strong aromatic components, paying attention to detail, texture, colour and flavour; the result being authentic, traditional Thai food that pushes the boundaries of modernism. The fundamental senses of Thai cuisine are represented in the complex interplay between sour, sweet, salty, bitter and spice. Tony and Oh do a fantastic job of juggling these disparate elements to create a harmonious finish with every plate that leaves the kitchen.

For a hearty taste of Thai, try ‘Mum’s classic recipes’, such as Son in Law Eggs with sweet tamarind, chilli and fried shallots [$8], or the Tom yum soup noodles with crispy fried chicken and bean shoots [$15]. However, those a little more adventurous may delight in the complexity of ‘Son-in-law’s fusion recipes’, including the sweet crunchy tamarind salad [$9]. Piled high with bean shoots, carrot, green apple, roasted coconut and crispy noodles, this ambrosial dish is deliciously redolent with a distinctive blend of sweet and sour.

Another fusion recipe is the braised beef tacos [$4.50 each], served theatrically on a wooden paddle. Each taco is comprised of a soft tortilla to encase the tasty juices dripping from the tender pieces of beef. The honeyed flavour of the meat stands out amidst a scrumptious blend of red onion, coriander, mint and ground chilli. Order two or three of these and you can have a meal in itself.

If you’re after something small, then you may like to try the betel leaf bites [2 pcs, $8], featuring crispy prawns, peanuts, mint, lime, roasted coconut and caramelised tamarind sauce. Otherwise, the roast duck bao [$6 each] is sure to impress with lashings of hoisin, cucumber and coriander. Meanwhile, those who are feeling hungry should head straight for the crispy soft shell crab & tiger prawns [$16]. There are very few single mouthfuls that are as pleasing as this. The crab is gratifyingly moreish, served in a fragrant green curry with Thai basil and a hint of sourness from kaffir lime leaves. The distinctive scent of spices mixed with coconut cream makes for a combination that is sure to warm your heart.

If you still have room in your stomach, then the twice-cooked crispy pork belly [$16] will leave you feeling more than satisfied. Stir-fried with green beans, bean shoots and kaffir lime leaves, this exotic dish features tantalisingly tender and juicy morsels of pork tossed in a sticky, sweet chilli jam glaze.

For dessert, you simply can’t go past the marshmallow & nutella puff [$12] – a veritable sweet tooth’s pleasure covered with berries, crushed cashew nuts and French vanilla ice cream. Those longing for something more traditional might like the steamed coconut pandan puddings [3 pcs, $9], a warm indulgence which will have you floating away to heaven in no time.

To drink, try the traditional Thai ice milk tea [$4.50] made with condensed milk and sugar. If you love your alcohol, then you’ll be happy to know that there is Singha [$9] on tap, as well as a wonderful selection of craft beers including Western Australia’s own Feral ‘Hop Hog’ IPA [$9.50]. If you’re after a bit of a kick, then opt for the Spicy Bloody Mary [$17], with Sriracha taking the place of Tabasco.

With interesting, authentic fare and a quirky style to boot, Son In Law looks set to be a popular and accessible destination in Collingwood over the coming warmer months. This is a place where you can take your friends, your family, or even have a party while experiencing the unique atmosphere created by the fusion of two contrasting cultures. If you haven’t already been, then get prepared for this lively, friendly venue to shake up the Thai street-food scene this summer with playful and temptingly delicious cuisine.

Son In Law

Address: 56 Johnston Street, Collingwood
Contact: (03) 9410 0399
Hours: Tues-Fri 5:30pm-11:30pm; Sat-Sun 11:30am-11:30pm.

Photos by Serena Ho for the AU Review