Have you ever done orienteering? The sport which combines outdoor adventure with map reading and navigational skills? I remember doing it at school, most probably under duress. The skill in orienteering is choosing the best route guided by your compass.
Ayatana, a modern Thai restaurant situated on the increasingly popular Windsor end of Chapel St, is a champion orienteerer – guided by the four points of the Thai ‘food compass’ : hot, sweet, salty and sour Ayatana finds a path of perfect balance between these crucial flavours and serves up dishes that reflect local tastes, have a level of authenticity and a commitment to the finest seasonal ingredients.
A delicious five course menu has been created by Ayatana for the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival Spring Graze. It features fresh local produce from some of Prahran Market’s most loved traders and is complemented by matched Oakdene wines.
I was invited to preview the feast ahead of the event and loved every mouthful. The balance shown in each dish was evident across the menu as a whole, which made for a most pleasant dining experience. The menu starts with a hot and sour soup showcasing mushrooms from Damian Pike (The Mushroom Man) – vibrant, fresh and tasty it has all the right notes of galangal and lemongrass and is an almost cleansing way to begin your meal.
The second course was my favourite: Sweet crunchy roasted tamarind bio dynamic brown rice salad. A mouthful to say perhaps, but what a mouthful to eat! It was all about flavour and texture: cashew nuts, green apple, bean shoots, mint, coriander, crispy noodles and flying fish roe came together perfectly. I wanted an extra serve to take home, along with perhaps another glass of the well matched 2012 Oakdene ‘Jessica’ Sauvignon Blanc.
The feast moves from its light start to some meatier dishes. Caramelised crispy free range berkshire pork belly from Gary’s Meats with chilli jam. lime, herbs and fried shallots brought a silence to the table that only comes from concentrated and savoured eating. Next a slow cooked Sher Wagyu Rump Massaman curry – from Neil’s Meats was beautifully tender and aromatic. The flavours of cinnamon and star anise worked well with the 2010 Oakdene ‘William’ Shiraz.
The meal concludes with a salted caramel ice cream sundae with caramelised steamed banana. Not being a big dessert eater this was not really for me but, judging my the almost licked clean dishes surrounding me, a winner for any sweet tooth.
Bookings can be made through the restaurant 03 9533 8813
Ayatana, 97 Chapel Street, Windsor, VIC
The Spring Graze runs from September 1 – 30.
I dined as a guest of Ayatana. Images are from Melbourne Food and Wine.