08 Aug Pintoh, Melbourne CBD
Outshone by the cuisine of its geographical neighbours, Lao cuisine hasn’t made much of an appearance here yet. Pintoh hopes to change that with its spread of modern and traditional Lao dishes. Its menu draws influence from Laos and the northeastern Isan region of Thailand, which has a population of ethnic Lao people that outnumbers those in Laos itself.
Staple dishes in Lao cuisine include larb and tam muk hoong (green papaya salad), and sticky rice is a key component of every meal. Flavours also lean more towards the spicy and bitter side of things compared to Thai and Vietnamese food.
We begin with the betel leaf prawns, which come with a vibrant herb sauce where lemongrass is predominant, and the herbs punctuated with a mild hit of chilli and crushed peanuts. Lemongrass pork comes next. Open up some of those grilled, whole lemongrass branches to reveal a tasty herbal and spicy pork mixture stuffed inside.
Kuviang fried chicken ribs are coated in a coconut milk batter, seasoned with a secret combination of eight herbs and spices. There’s almost no grease on our fingers, and the flavoursome batter is light and crunchy. Finger-licking good.
The confit pork small ribs are sweet and meltingly tender. Though strong on flavour, it’s balanced by a beautifully presented apple, pink radish, walnut and herb salad. Made to order, the freshness of the salad is apparent. The mussaman beef curry utilises beef cheek, cooked until it melts in the mouth. For their chilli crab dish, soft shell crabs are stir-fried and coated in a sweet chilli jam, and whole cashews provide a contrast to the soft and juicy seafood. It’s a much more robust dish compared to the rest.
Larb gai, only rated two out of three on their chilli scale is most definitely hot. Even the chilli-head mentions that it’s quite spicy. A mixture of minced chicken, red onion, mint and coriander is dressed with a nam yum-based sauce, the chilli seeds visible in abundance. Chopped toasted rice add a neat crunch. Spooned into lettuce leaves, wrapped then eaten with the hands, it’s a messy but delicious eat.
To finish, there’s a sweet panna cotta, which is matched with a more savoury layer of sago. The caramelised banana brulee adds some colour, though could have done with a bit more crunch. For something more unusual, there’s the lightly salted taro puree, paired with a scoop of coconut ice cream and pistachio syrup.
Explore Lao cuisine with Pintoh’s flavoursome menu and their casual, share-style dining experience. Not knowing what to expect when we entered, we left having had one of the best feeds we’ve had in a while.
Disclaimer: I was invited as a guest of Pintoh. Opinions expressed here are purely my own and based on my experience at the time of the visit
165A Bourke St
Melbourne, VIC, 3000
(03) 9650 8452