50 Park St
South Melbourne, VIC
There seems to have been a bit of an 80's resurgence of late, 80's movies like Total Recall being remade, 80's music & excessive hair featuring in Rock of Ages, however, culinary tastes of the 80's is not something that has enjoyed any sort of resurgence.
In fact I would be hard pressed to name too many restaurants of note that were there in the 80's and still operating today. Of course there are restaurants that have been around since the 80's but not many that proudly state the year of origin of their dish. So it was with some surprise to look over the menu of The Isthmus of Kra to see that some of the creations date back to the decade of flourescent lycra and Dallas.
To show that it is not all trading off past hits, the menu is broken by course in to Our Classics and New, both sections have a lot of attractive dishes but having been a good 5 years since my last visit it was classics all the way.
The entree order of pandan chicken arrived with a carrot twirl garnish that I am sure is a throwback to 80's plating is simply delicious. While it is a bit cumbersome unwrapping the leaves, what lies inside is about as good as chicken gets. Moist with a delicious thick sauce, the sugar in the sauce caramalises during cooking so there are lots of nice flavours.
Venison Wok-singed [Monsoon restaurant, 1993] - Epic Win
I think I tried this dish way back in the 90's when I worked around the corner from The Isthmus of Kra and this is as enjoyable today as it was back then. The ever so tender venison marries well with the crunchy vegetables and chilli. The spice levels are spot on and the chilli reaches a noticable level, but never gets to overpowering.
Lamb Gulai [Isthmus of Kra restaurant, 2002] - Win
So the lamb gulia is a relative newcomer for The Isthmus of Kra coming on to the menu in the naughties. The thick curry has plenty of spice and perfectly cooked lamb, the kind that is able to be broken up with a fork.
Compared to oh-so-many pedestrian Thai curries out there, this was a pure joy and while the odd piece of cardoman and curry leaf got in the way, it is kind of nice to know the spices are definitely in there.
Time has not wearied The Isthmus of Kra, while not much has changed inside, the food remains relevant and of high standard. I'll definitely return again soon and may even dare to try the new dishes, as long as I resist that knockout venison dish.