I was on my pre-lunch stroll around Canberra’s city centre, scoping the area for the perfect spot to eat, when a row of Japanese restaurants caught my eye from across the street. Newspaper clippings boasting each restaurant’s excellency plastered the store windows, spiking my curiosity. However, I never made it to the Japanese restaurants, stopping short at Alice’s Thai Restaurant, in East Row Sydney building.
Alice’s restaurant is inconspicuous–you’ll see the restaurant sign then struggle for a minute to find its counterpart–but a large bulletin board on the sidewalk advertising lunch specials was enough to lure me inside. The special menu offered ten meal choices for $10, mostly basic curries and stir-fry dishes, rice included. I’m forever craving Thai food, but outside of Thailand, it’s one of the pricier cuisines. I find it hard shelling out $25 for meals that didn’t exceed $3 back in the land of smiles.
Despite its plain exterior, Alice’s inside is a dim-lit dining room thoughtfully arranged, with an authentic Thai atmosphere. Colorful elephant tapestries hang from the walls, along with photographs of King Bhumibol and paintings of a golden temple and floating market. There was a faint smell of incense, but I couldn’t find a source to confirm this.
The restaurant had a steady lunch-time crowd, but I was sat and gave my order of chicken green curry within minutes. I went to the bathroom to wash my hands and wasn’t back at the table for more than two minutes when my meal arrived.
“Wow, that was fast,” I said, thinking I had at least ten more minutes to chill out and look around before it was time to dig in.
We all want our meals to come out in a timely manner, but this was almost too fast. Behind a good meal, there should be some effort in the preparation process, but I suspected this dish might have done a quickie in the microwave. But who knows, maybe there is a chef for every patron in Alice’s kitchen, and they all bring their A-game, cranking out five-star food by the minute.
I’d say I got what I paid for. This is the first Thai curry I’ve eaten since leaving Thailand (with the exception of my boyfriend’s attempt to make panang), so perhaps my expectations were too high. Alice’s is an authentic Thai restaurant, but I’m going to say it’s next-to-impossible here in Canberra to obtain the same fresh and traditional ingredients found in Thailand.
It wasn’t the best green curry I’ve had, but far from the worse. The chicken was thin and rubbery, and the curry a bit watered-down, perhaps lacking in coconut milk. I was pleased with the amount of spice—mild, but enough to make my face tingle. There was a generous portion of vegetables, including carrot, cucumber, red capsicum and bamboo shoots. My dining experience lasted no more than 20 minutes, and I’ll most likely forget I ever ate Alice’s after I finish this post.
By ordering from the low-price lunch menu, I may have sacrificed quality, so I’ll come back when I’m feeling less thrifty and order a meal from the extensive main menu (67 options excluding some tasty looking desserts).
Until then, I’ll keep dreaming of Thailand and its culinary ingenuity.