“Beer Hall, Eating House and Disco” With a description like this, who would have thought that I’d find good food here? It’s a little surprising that I chose this as a dining destination on my recent Melbourne visit – I don’t drink beer (try as I might), hence I haven’t even been in a beer hall, and I haven’t been in a disco for at least a couple of decades! However, I discovered Cookie through the Googling process (yes, I’ve resorted to Googling since I finished the 2016 Top 100 list – no clear eating direction!) I was trying to find some funky, modern Asian food and I kept leaning towards Cookie – the menu was just so tantalising! I went ahead and booked, and on telling a couple of friends where I was going, their sentiment was “Really? You’re eating at Cookie? Isn’t that kind of a night club?” It had me doubting my choice, but with nowhere else I particularly wanted to go, I stuck with my decision, and I’m really glad I did.
We were there for Sunday lunch and on arriving at the street address (Curtin House in Swanston Street) we thought we must be in the wrong place. No obvious signage and no signs of anything that resembled a restaurant. Then we realised we had to climb the stairs up to the first floor. When we got up there, we found ourselves in large, light Art Nouveau open area with high ceiling and an extremely long bar and restaurant seating that can take around 80 people.
The chef is Karen Batson and the modern Thai menu is divided into small, medium and large dishes and it’s very extensive (I think too extensive – you could easily cut the menu down by half and still have plenty of options) but 90% of the dishes appealed to me. So, there were some hard decisions to be made. There were three of us – two being seafood-mad and Andrew, happy to order his own non-seafood dishes.
Jane and I decided on the Cured Ocean Trout, Smoked Mussels, Radish, Watercress & Green Chilli – now there’s a recipe for tasty right there! A really pretty dish and a great light starter with a well-balanced sweet, tangy, green chilli dressing. The Steamed Mussels, Ginger, Lemongrass, Coriander & Kaffir Lime was a generous serving. Not much to say about these apart from great flavours and we loved them. We then had the Banana Leaf Barramundi Fillets, Red Curry, Young Coconut & Basil – a big meaty piece of fresh fish topped with dried chillies and fried basil.
As much as I loved those dishes it was these two that really blew me away – the Fish Dumplings & Cucumber Pickle and the Stuffed Calamari, Chicken and Kaffir Lime, Sticky Chilli, Garlic & Basil Sauce. The dumplings were the prettiest dumplings I’ve seen – delicate and flower-like and bright yellow from turmeric. They tasted as good as they looked. The pastry was light and the filling had a good firm texture. I was told there is this one woman that makes them and she has special tweezers she uses to make the ‘petals’. Fantastic. I would go back just for these. The chicken-stuffed calamari was everything I could ever want in a dish. Bursting with flavour, the red of chilli and the vibrant green of the fried basil leaves. And a sauce of chilli, garlic and basil?? *swoon* It went beautifully with the generous serve of Coconut Rice.
Unfortunately Andrew wasn’t quite as taken with his non-seafood options – the Taro dumplings with chilli soy he found quite stodgy with not much flavour, and the Pork Belly Dry Red Curry, Green Beans and Green Peppercorns he found a bit too hot (spicy) to be enjoyable and the pork itself was dry and chewy. It just goes to show, you can be in the same restaurant, even at the same table, and have a very different dexperience.
I wouldn’t hesitate in eating at Cookie again. I love this kind of food – bold flavours, colourful and delicious plates of Asian food – in fact, I’m excited all over again after writing about it!