With all the options, I just try Thai again
VANIDOL’S ASIAN CUISINE 353 Elizabeth St, North Hobart; Licensed/ BYO; dinner Tuesday to Sunday from 6pm. 6234 9307
LIKE the Ball and Chain, Lebrina, Le Provencal and perhaps a handful of others, Vanidol’s has been around and at the top of its game for so long it has become something of a Hobart institution.
Opened in 1991, it was one of the pioneers of what would soon become the busy multicultural North Hobart strip.
More importantly, its Pan- Asian offering of an “Indian Thai Indonesian” menu introduced many Hobartians to their first taste of coriander, lemongrass and lime and came at a time when Hobart had only one other Indian restaurant, Gur Petab’s in Battery Point.
It was those exotic flavours and the excitement of the new that quickly established Vanidol’s as one of the city’s most popular eateries while its consistency over the years helped it retain its position as Hobart experienced a mini invasion of new Indian and Thai takeaways, cafes and restaurants.
With that sort of track record, when Sumana Sritawat- Dowling bought the restaurant a year ago, she sensibly saw no reason to change a thing. So she hasn’t. The Thai chef and the menu are the same and, under her delightful smiley front- of- house- management, it remains as successful and as busy as ever.
So why did my wife and I come away disappointed after a dinner and a repeat visit there last week?
Finding the extensive specials, banquet, chef’s recommendation and a la carte menus difficult to navigate, I simply asked Sumana to bring us a selection of their most popular dishes. Apart from a fairly dilute and mildly spiced tom yum goong, we ended up with four similar- styled, meaty dishes – slow- cooked caramel pork, Thai beef salad, stir- fry lamb cutlet pad cha and beef pad kratiem prik Thai.
While the meats were beautifully tender, the sauces were all dark- flavoured, dull and heavy, with none of the fragrant jump- out- at- you aromas or the fresh, bold flavours and lively spicing of Thai food I think most people have come to expect.
Hoping for better luck with some curries, I returned the next day for a takeaway gaeng keow wan gai – green chicken curry – and a mussaman nuer.
Again they were OK but failed to provide anywhere near the vibrant palate excitement of the same dishes offered elsewhere. And that, I feel, is where the problem lies – while Vanidol’s has essentially stood still, the Thai scene in Hobart and Hobart’s Thai palate have moved on.
There are more choices and much more exciting and authentic Thai experiences to be had around town. But, while I see it as a problem and won’t be rushing back, middleof- the- road Thai is what many people want – and they’re the ones who will keep Vanidol’s pumping well into its third decade.