I've gotta say, the stretch of Princes Highway at Tempe isn't one of this city's prettiest areas. It's all about industrial warehouses, red brick houses, boarded-up shop frontages and, who could miss it, the southern hemisphere's largest IKEA store. It may be a mere 3 km from my house but I'm only ever in that area when I'm in a cab heading to or coming back from the airport.
Tucked away behind an unassuming glass façade is a newish Thai place I've recently discovered. With a virtual freeway of endless traffic just metres from its sliding glass door, Bai Tong Thai is like a breath of fresh air in this mangy part of Tempe. Not so much with it's take-away vibe but, most importantly, the food that comes out of the kitchen.
Many of the usual Thai staples are featured on the menu but it's the progressive approach the chef takes that make the regular and signature dishes stand above your average Aussie Thai joint. Finger food is always a good place to start and I couldn't go past the miang pla grob (9.9). An ikan bilis-type medley of crispy fish, cashews, tamarind & coconut mounded onto betel leaves. There's a slight spiciness but it's more about the sweet and tangy crunch, making it ideal beer food that's finger-lickin' good.
A plate of three grilled scallops (11.9) was an absolute pleasure to eat, topped with sticks of juicy apple dressed in lime, fish sauce and chilli; lightly seared and cooked perfectly.
If there's anything worth schlepping all the way to Tempe for it's got to be the choor muang (11.9). This traditional dumpling gets its appearance from the golden dewdrop (considered a weed in Australia) and here at Bai Tong it's filled with a sweet caramelised peanut and smoked duck mince. They're just incredible.
It had been a while since my last banana blossom salad (15.9) so I made sure it made it to our lunch spread. Glad I did. For an extra $5 you can have prawns tossed through the tangle of shredded blossom, coconut, peanut, cashew and crispy onion. Another goodie. Finally, some crispy pork belly (18.9), or course, came to the Thai party all spiced-up and crunchy with green beans and red capsicum. Sadly the chilli jam limboed beneath the mild level and the occasional small piece of pork had a little too much deep-fryer time but the rest of the flavours were bang on.
Finally, a decent Thai joint in this neck of the urban woods.Bai Tong Thai703 Pacific HighwayTempe 204402 8668 4800Tues-Sun 11am-3pm; 5pm-10pmwebsite