Dodee Paidang

The heat is on in the CBD – and the ho­mogenised Thai joints are run­ning for cover.

Time Out (Melbourne) - - FOOD & DRINK - By Jess Ho

IT WASN’T LONG ago that Mel­bourne was con­sid­ered the runt of the lit­ter when came to our choices in Thai restau­rants. But we’re catch­ing up, with Dodee Paidang join­ing the au­then­tic ranks of Jinda, Tom Toon Thai Noo­dle and Soi 38. It’s the project of Som­porn Phosri – the fourth store of the fam­ily. Hav­ing won the hearts and tongues of Thai lo­cals in Sydney, he thought it was time to con­quer Mel­bourne. Hid­den in the base­ment of Ho­tel Cause­way, off Lit­tle Collins Street, you’ll find the colour­ful, lo-fi and com­mu­nity-driven 150-seater packed to the brim with Thai na­tives. Thai is the first lan­guage spo­ken here by guests and staff, but service in English is no less friendly and ac­com­mo­dat­ing. Just be sure to project when or­der­ing, as the ’90s song stylings of Ce­line, Mariah or the Back­street Boys will be blar­ing over the speak­ers. Some nights Thai cover bands will be singing their favourite hits. We hope you like Cold­play. The main event is the sig­na­ture tom yum noo­dle, com­ing in a clean, sweetly porky, hot-and-sour broth hit with gen­er­ous spoon­fuls of fried gar­lic and topped with crispy won­ton strips. Top­pings range from seafood to soft pork bone and can be cus­tomised with a choice be­tween seven types of noo­dles, such as glass, rice, in­stant and su­per­sized. Cad­dies with chill­ies in fish sauce, chilli pow­der, vine­gar and straight-up sugar are on ev­ery ta­ble to ad­just each bowl to truly make it your own. Com­pet­i­tive friends can be seen chal­leng­ing one an­other on lev­els of heat, stom­ach­ing chilli lev­els up to seven – which causes the usu­ally clear broth to turn opaque – with pre­cau­tion­ary names like ‘devil’, ‘lava’, ‘su­per vol­cano’, and all the way up to ‘su­per nova’. Or­der at your own risk and be­ware the sweats, chilli hal­lu­ci­na­tions and the in­evitable Johnny Cash. Staff do well to ques­tion your bold de­ci­sion mak­ing, some­times qual­i­fy­ing that it comes ‘Thai spicy’ and that they can only han­dle a level three heat them­selves.

Less pop­u­lar, but equally as ad­dic­tive, are bowls of rice drowned in the same tom yum broth. A full menu is also avail­able all day, but it is best for those who come in groups. Thin, mar­i­nated slices of grilled pork neck are served next to a punchy nam jim jeaw dip­ping sauce; strips of mar­i­nated, air-dried, fried beef are rem­i­nis­cent of jerky; cur­ries and som tums (green pa­paya sal­ads) are up there with those you’d find in northeast Thai­land and are dev­il­ishly fiery. Those who are brave enough to em­brace the spe­cials will be re­warded with dishes like gelati­nous, soft-cooked ten­don stir fried with chilli and holy basil, per­fect when ac­com­pa­nied with rice and shared fam­ily-style due to the grow­ing hum of spice.

Dodee Paidang is Mel­bourne’s an­swer to the grow­ing num­ber of ho­mogenised, panAsian eater­ies pop­ping up on ev­ery cor­ner with danger­ously sim­i­lar menus. It fol­lows no for­mu­las ex­cept for be­ing un­apolo­get­i­cally Thai. Dodee is proud of its ori­gins, gra­cious in its de­liv­ery, de­li­cious in ev­ery bite, and we salute it for not pan­der­ing to a western palate.

Jess Ho Base­ment 353 Lit­tle Collins St, Mel­bourne 3000. 03 9602 4968. Sun-thu 6.30-10.30am & 11am-1am; Fri, Sat 6.30-10.30 & 11am-3am.

Cur­ries and som tums are dev­il­ishly fiery

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