Ayatana, Modern Thai Cuisine & Wine Bar, Windsor - review #2

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I thought it was high time for another Ayatana post, seeing as we've eaten there quite a bit over the past two years and have experienced more of the menu than we had at the time of my first review. (My first Ayatana review is here.) 

This review will re-hash a bit of what I said the first time around, and will also show you a few different dishes.

Please note that Ayatana does seem to change the menu around a bit, so some of the dishes below are no longer listed - but I still thought it was worth including the photos so you can get an idea of what's on offer and how things look.


On this occasion Mex and I went here with my parents, which happily meant that we could order more than usual and therefore sample more from the menu. 

Plus it's always good to go to your favourite restaurants with other people, since it's often the case that they order something you would never have thought of, introducing you to new plates and potentially to new favourites.


The above entrée was the NZ calamari (no longer listed). From memory it cost around $14. I have to say, this was one of the few dishes we've ordered that didn't blow my socks off.

The calamari was fine and of good quality - plus it was cooked to perfection - I just think they got the sauce wrong. As you can see, it comes with sweet chili but I think it would have benefited from something else (a tangy aioli, for example), because the calamari didn't have that much flavour on its own and the sweet chili didn't quite hit the mark.


Now these were great. This was the raw tuna rolls entrée, and unfortunately it's no longer listed but I think it cost around $12. It was on the menu for ages and I'm surprised it's been removed. Maybe it will show up again.

The flavours were simple and complex at the same time, the dish was well-presented, and the tuna was burstingly fresh. You can see that just by looking at it.

It's definitely something I would order again if Ayatana brings it back into circulation.


Our sides for the main meals included coconut rice and Thai brown rice ($5 each). That's a little more expensive for rice, but do note that the regular jasmine rice costs $3 and the servings are deceptively large. Mex and I normally share one of these and there's almost always some left over - despite how hard we try to finish it.


Here's the roti bread with peanut sauce ($7.50), which Mex always orders. It's probably the one dish from Ayatana that I don't like - the roti bread is too sweet and pancakey for me (and I normally love roti bread), and the satay sauce is also too sweet and something of a let down. We're both satay sauce junkies and this one isn't great. But Mex is happy with it, so maybe that's just me.


I've reviewed this dish before so I'll just re-hash what I said then. It's the blue swimmer crab, tiger prawns and NZ calamari, stir fried with tom yum sauce, cauliflower, onion, vegetables and kaffir lime leaves ($25.90).

It's one of the more expensive mains but, again, it's totally worth it - I've had it a few times and love it to bits. The seafood is great quality and the sauce is light but still nicely flavoured, and the veggies are cooked just right.

While this dish has been taken from the menu, you can still order it (and I do) but you'll just get prawns and not the other seafood. It's still great with just prawns though!


This is what my husband the pork-belly fiend ordered: it's twice-cooked, crispy pork belly, stir fried with chili jam, onion, green beans, bean shoots and kaffir lime leaves ($22).

He loved this, and he's had a lot of good pork belly in his time so he's hard to please in that department. I personally can't stand even the sight of pork belly, but I did try the sauce and it was lovely. Nicely flavoured but not too heavy, and a good match for something as rich as the pork belly.


My parents ordered this and I'm glad they did because I'd been wanting to try it but had always opted for something more substantial. It's the spicy green papaya salad with green beans, roasted peanuts, garlic, caramelised palm sugar, lime juice and fish sauce ($14.90).

I of course tried some and I really liked it - it's a richer and more complex dish than it looks and I think my parents were glad they were sharing this and the chicken (below), rather than eating this alone. While it is as fresh and crisp as it looks, there's quite a bit going on so it makes a better share plate than it does an individual dish I reckon.


Ah, the chicken dish that my parents also shared. It's the roasted macadamia and cashew nuts, stir fried with chicken breast fillets, chilli jam and vegetables ($19.90). It's a really wonderful dish - particularly for the price - and it's one I come back to again and again.

Ten points to Ayatana for continuing to make this with chicken breast, as opposed to chicken thigh. I can't tell you how many places have started using chicken thighs in their dishes: I bloody hate that stuff because it's all fat and no meat. Which is of course why restaurants use it: it's cheaper.

I recommend this one. It's hearty but still light enough that you won't feel stuffed after eating it, just nicely full. My parents loved it too, and it's one of the few chicken dishes that Mex likes because there's enough going on to satisfy his preference for richer, heavier foods.


Atmosphere & service

The service is consistently impeccable here: efficient and friendly without being in your face, and always professional. I generally tip more at Ayatana than I do anywhere else, because they do such a good job and nothing is too much trouble.

The atmosphere is great too: it's a small, classy restaurant that does indeed feel like a wine bar, but it's not so fancy that it's a turn off. I feel relaxed every time I go in there, which is what you want after a long day.

Verdict

I won't re-hash what I said in my earlier Ayatana review because I'm guessing you get the picture that we really love this place since we keep going back there and I've taken the time to give them a second good write up.

Eat here. 'Nuff said.

Details

97 Chapel St, Windsor VIC 3181

+ 61 3 9533 8813
info@ayatana.com.au

Lunch: Wednesday to Saturday from 12pm only; group bookings for more than seven people required

Dinner: Monday to Sunday, 5pm until late (gotta love a joint that's open on Mondays)




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