The renaissance of Swan Street continues in a strength not seen since Smith Street became an epicentre of Australian culinary greatness. Seven years ago when I first moved to Melbourne, Swan Street was an abyss only worthwhile of frequenting for a few specific bars and pubs.
One of the latest to grace the strip is Botherambo which brings modern Thai and Asian flavours to the array of options. It is housed in a good looking corner block that is a mix between alfresco spaces and a more intimate interior. The kind which you try your best to peek into as you go by, but really have to stop to properly take the space in.
Tonight Catherine and I have just seen the early evening session of “Mad Max” so we are rocking up at 9pm. The restaurant is in full swing, packed inside on this cold night, but luckily there are a couple of spaces for two available. One of the waitstaff who greets us continues to serve us through the night and she does a terrific job.
There are a few different types of betel leaves on offer on the menu so we decide to try one each. It was a mistake to try the crispy duck. While there are some nice flavour accents, the combination of the firm leaf which is difficult to bite through, with quite stringy duck that is more tough than crispy, doesn’t work well.
After a tough start, our food went from good to excellent. We shared the pork and prawn dumplings which were skillfully wrapped and packed full of flavour. It is a little awkward to share but the broth is delicious and really adds to the overall dish, the firm wrapper providing an excellent contrasting texture to the liquid.
Next comes the best dish of the night. The Penaeng 16 hour shin beef is beautiful. Meat that falls apart in tenderness with deep flavour, along with accompaniments such as snake beans, young bamboo shoots, plenty of coriander, and several salted prawns. One ingredient used that I had not heard of was krachai which is a relative of ginger. There is some imagination and purposeful points of difference in this menu.
As we near the end of dinner, satisfied with the generous amount of food, we notice that the dining room is still quite full. This is a restaurant that has quickly found a following and looks to have the qualities that will see it prosper in a strip that has become incredibly competitive for reasonably priced options.