I’m interrupting myself: it’s time to take a mini-break from Fijian recaps, flip this whole thing on its head, and fast forward to Melbourne for a minute. The biggest reason? I’m starting to forget one of the best meals we’ve had on this trip thus far, and I just can’t let that happen.
When we arrived in Melbourne, we were invited to try out BangPop—a new Thai street food-inspired restaurant in an up and coming neighborhood called South Wharf. As an out-of-towner (or, more accurately, an other-side-of-the-worlder), I wasn’t loving reactions from the locals when we said we had Saturday night dinner plans in South Wharf. Though almost all had heard great things about BangPop, most were seriously disinterested in visiting the South Wharf area… to the point where the reactions were just blending together into one giant “MEH.”
When we got to South Wharf, I could kind of see where they were coming from. The best I can figure is that it’s equivalent to a New Yorker saying they’re going out to dinner next to Grand Central. Yeah, there are things there, yeah, people go there… but it’s really just a hub for business travelers and confused tourists. This is unfortunate, because Bangpop deserve much more attention than that.
As soon as we walked in, we took in the funky, Thai-inspired decor before sidling up to the bar to choose our first drink of the night. The mixologist, Ale, was making the cocktails himself as he chatted away with patrons, so when he made his way over to us, we asked for his recommendations.
Ale had a hard time narrowing the list down to his top favorites—you could tell that the cocktail list is his pride and joy. After some pressing, he advised I try the Smoked Margarita (tequila, fresh lime juice, agave syrup, and smoked salt), while the hubs opted for the Lau Khing (dark rum, ginger sugar, fresh lime juice, and Thai basil).
Though I usually go for beer or wine, this margarita was perfection—not overly syrupy, and the smoked salt added the right level of intensity without overpowering the rest of the flavors. The hubs loved his drink, too… though I thought it would have been better suited for brunch. You should also know that currently, I’m wearing a t-shirt that the wino gave me for Christmas that has a gun on it and the words “BUY ME BRUNCH,” so there’s a chance my brunch-based opinions should be taken with a grain of salt.
After our drinks, we made our way through the restaurant to a table by the window, overlooking the wharf. Had the weather been warmer, I definitely would have opted to sit outside on the water—a perk that most of the other neighborhoods of Melbourne lack. Point for you, South Wharf.
As we mulled over the menu, our helpful waiter came over to guide us through our options—something we desperately needed. Honestly, I’m not the most adventurous Thai-eater… I usually stick with noodles, and nothing too spicy. Luckily, our waiter was there to help us branch out and live a little.
Ka Chae Nae Pla Tod
Marinated chicken spare ribs fried with nam jim taley and pickled shallots
Marinated chargrilled beef sirloin salad
And… the very best thing we ate all night—and possibly in all of Melbourne:
Yum Pla Foo
Roasted and fried ‘cotton fish’ with green papaya salad and nam-pla wan.
Ah what now?
Yeah, I had never heard of cotton fish. I don’t even know how to describe it. It was like… a savory, slightly crunchy cotton candy (or, as Australians call it: fairy floss and HOW CUTE IS THAT?). We started by pulling off little, flaky bits of fried fish, dipping them in the sauce, and just letting them literally melt in our mouths… but when our waiter came over and suggested we use our forks to mix everything together? HEAVEN.
Basically, if I don’t find this in Thailand in a few weeks, I will be one hangry biatch.
To add to the perfection, Ale had floated over earlier in our meal to suggest we pair our Yum Pla Foo with Cantina Terlaner 2011 Pinot Blanco. Done & done.
One of my favorite parts about this meal was that, even though we went heavy on the fried food, we finished feeling completely satisfied and sans that terrible overstuffed/bloated situation that so often happens. (Please don’t say that’s just me….?)
This is a perk for many reasons, the main one being: room for dessert.
Now that cottonfish had showed us the error of our narrow-minded ways, we decided to go real crazy for dessert. Though I normally would have opted for one of the sorbets, we went for the Saku Song Kreuang instead:
I’ve never actually had tapioca pudding… mainly because that combo of words does not roll off my tongue well and kind of makes me want to gag? Nothing against you, tapioca, you’re just not an appealing sound. To be honest, I should have trusted my gut. The flavors all worked well enough together, I’m just soo not a tapioca kind of girl. I have a feeling, though, if it’s your thing, then this is YOUR dessert. But it’s just not mine. Bring back the fairy floss.
What is mine, though? The Sicilian Pop that Ale recommended we pair with dessert. Say hello to Amaretto di Saronno, apricot brandy, and fresh lemon juice:
I want this at the end of every meal now. Thanks, Ale.
As our dinner fell on our last night in Melbourne, the hubs and I spent the walk home reminiscing about our favorites. I’ll get to the rest of those later, but there was no question: dinner at BangPop definitely sits near the top.
Pssst… yes, BangPop did host the hubs & I in exchange for some feedback, but I take eating VERY seriously. I solemnly swear that all opinions are my own, and I would never tell you to go wine & dine if I didn’t honestly think it was delish. And the best dinner we had in Melbourne. And I want to go back now.