Review: Nora, Carlton

Late last year, I received an email from Sarin Rojanametin and Jean Thamthanakorn of the fine dining restaurant Nora in Carlton. Shockingly and disappointingly, they were announcing the closure of Nora.

“It is with great excitement that we announce the closure of our restaurant Nora. 3 years ago we had a 1 year plan to create a space to explore creativity through hospitality. What a ride.

We’ve evolved over that time, understanding more, making decisions to reduce sittings and guests but expanding the menu and the journey; less is more. More room to create, more opportunity to dig deeper into our roots, cuisine and ideas.

We’ve loved every bit, but we’ve also realised that to fully reach our potential, we need to get back to our land, our home, our roots. To be surrounded by limitless inspirations that will challenge us to uncover new possibilities.”

Broadsheet Melbourne covered this news, and I think they were as disappointed as myself. In saying “But for all our multiculturalism, some things remain challenging for the majority”, Broadsheet were able to explain the reason for Nora’s closure. The food was simply too foreign, too challenging for many palates when the usual Australian exposure to Thai food barely extends past the $10 Pad Thai at the local takeaway. 

Let me tell you now – if you didn’t get a chance to experience Nora in the past three years, you missed out. K and I were lucky enough to dine at Nora in April 2017 on the occasion of his birthday, and walked away raving about our experience and rating it on par with some of the best meals that we’ve had – and we’ve had a few! 

The titles of many of the dishes were mysterious and only very barely gave a hint of what we were to expect – what after all, is Tom Yum Prawn, add extra egg for $2? With quirky titles that hark back to traditional Thai street food, the dishes that show up on your table are uniquely elegant, playing with textures, temperatures and tastes in a way that would challenge any palate.

Some of my highlights include the Daft Punk Is Playing In My Mouth dish of pickled fish, served with chilli ice and black sesame paste. The concept of chilli ice is as mind-blowing as it seems, offering both heat and chill in the one mouthful.

Another highlight, one which we’ve vowed to try to replicate at home, is that of a drink from the matching non-alcoholic drinks menu. Lychee and brie mocktail…yes, brie, as in brie cheese. The strong creamy ripeness of the brie was brilliantly offset by the sweet fresh fragrance of the lychee juice. I think if we were to attempt this at home, we would have to use fresh lychees – no canned lychee could possibly provide that freshness. 

With the closure of Nora, Melbourne has lost a young and innovative dining experience. It wasn’t just a restaurant. It was one of the most extraordinary culinary experiences around, embracing the intricacies of a cuisine that most people under-rate and under-value. Give me Nora’s modern exploration of Thai over traditional stuffy French or Italian fare any day.

Nora was located at 156 Elgin Street, Carlton.

Review: Chum Tang, Chatswood

There’s a scene in the movie P.S. I Love You where Lisa Kudrow’s character says, “After centuries of men looking at my tits instead of my eyes and pinching my ass instead of shaking my hand, I now have the divine right to stare at a man’s backside with vulgar, cheap appreciation if I want to!” That’s the approach I like to take to watching movies like Magic Mike XXL – I’ll leer at men with delicious abs if I want to.

I went and saw the movie last month with my friend Sarojini, on the very first day that it came out. I’m just that dedicated to watching men gyrate on the screen in sequinned thongs. But first, I needed food to fuel me through a few hours of catcalling at the screen so we stopped in at Chum Tang in The District Chatswood Interchange for a quick dinner.

Fresh Mandarin juice, $5
Fresh Mandarin juice, $5

I love ordering some fresh fruit juice so I jumped at the Fresh Mandarin Juice as soon as I saw it on the menu. The mandarins have been so lovely this season that I had really high hopes for the drink. Unfortunately, they had added too much sugar to the juice so that it almost hurt your teeth to drink it. I ended up diluting it a bit with water to make it more drinkable.

Jackfruit salad (green jackfruit, roasted coconut and chilli jam), $13
Jackfruit salad (green jackfruit, roasted coconut and chilli jam), $13

The Jackfruit Salad which we shared was probably the highlight of the whole meal. It normally comes served with shredded chicken, but as Sarojini is a vegetarian, we got it without the chicken. It still works incredibly well, with the roasted coconut a particular highlight as it adds a real crunch and toasted flavour to the salad. The jackfruit was so fresh that we begged the waitress to tell us where they source their jackfruit from – apparently there’s a Thai supermarket near Central station that’s excellent for fresh jackfruit!

Vegetarian Pad See Euw (Wok fried flat rice noodle, Chinese broccoli and dark soy), $12
Vegetarian Pad See Euw (Wok fried flat rice noodle, Chinese broccoli and dark soy), $12

Sarojini originally wanted to order a vegetarian Pad Thai, but they were unable to accommodate that as they had already pre-prepared the sauce which included fish sauce which she can’t eat. So she settled for the Pad See Euw with its glistening fried rice noodles. I think it was adequate, but certainly no match for the depth of flavour found in my dish.

Ka nom jean (Thai vermicelli noodle with green curry chicken, Thai basil, beansprouts, pickled mustard greens, and egg), $13
Ka nom jean (Thai vermicelli noodle with green curry chicken, Thai basil, beansprouts, pickled mustard greens, and egg), $13

My choice of the Ka nom jean, proved to be particularly inspired. Full of fresh crunchy beansprouts, a soft tamago-style egg and a multi-layered green curry sauce with curry leaves and chillies galore, this bowl of noodles looked small from the outset, but quickly filled me up with its rich sauce. A real winner for a cold winters night.

Not that I needed any warming up given the movie we were going to see…Magic Mike XXL is a really fun movie. The other women in the session that we went to were laughing, catcalling, and whooping throughout the whole movie. It’s definitely one to see with your girlfriends if you haven’t already! (And as for Chum Tang, Thai food still isn’t a preferred cuisine of mine, so I probably won’t be back any time soon! I may try their sister restaurant Khao Pla though.)

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Review: Sumrayn Thai Bangkok Street Food via EatNow

I’ve tried a few different online order food delivery services now, and have had largely positive experiences. It’s hard to judge though, as I order takeaway food so irregularly – what actually defines ‘good’ and ‘bad’ service? For me, I think it all comes down to how user-friendly the website is and whether or not they make it easy for you to get food into your mouth sooner rather than later. EatNow ticks all the boxes.


Once you hit the homepage, you’re presented with a single question – where do you want food delivered to? One question to get you started on your journey, so you’re not bombarded at this point with a million questions about what cuisine you’re after, whether you want your food delivered to you or whether you’ll pick it up…it’s simple, and very user-friendly.


Once you get to the next page, that’s when you can begin to filter by what you’re interested in. The system does do some automatic sorting for you based on whether or not the restaurant is open at the time, whether they offer free delivery, and its popularity and proximity.


I decided that (uncharacteristically!) I feel like some Thai food with a bit of a twist, and so I pick Sumrayn Thai Bangkok Street Food located in Chatswood. It certainly helps that they have a lot of different special offers, including a 15% off first time orders which catches my eye. EatNow automatically calculates this discount for you and updates your total order on the side, which makes it much easier as you go through the menu to ensure that you keep within your budget.


Now I don’t know about you, but I love signing in using my social media accounts. I’m permanently logged into Facebook and Twitter on my computer, so when it comes to creating new accounts for websites like this, it makes it a lot easier to simply click the ‘Sign in with Facebook’ button than bother with creating a new account and trying to remember passwords!


Once you’re logged in and you provide your delivery details, you can choose to pay in a few different ways. I rarely carry cash on me in this age of Paypass, so I always like to see easier alternative payment options available. I used Paypal, and the process of moving to Paypal to login and verify payment before returning to the EatNow website was virtually seamless – very easy for the consumer.


The order confirmation came in stages. First you see your confirmation on screen, a minute later you get a confirmation email, and then when the restaurant receives and acknowledges your order, you get a confirmation SMS. It’s a little excessive, but comforting at the same time as you definitely know that you’ve placed your order and that your food is on its way.

Our apartment can actually be quite difficult to find as it’s not accessible through a normal street address, so I always worry that any delivery people will be left wandering around completely lost. The delivery man for Sumrayn Thai was a total gun though, and came to our apartment without an issue, even complimenting me on the delivery instructions I had submitted with our order for making it easy for him. He was right on time as well, arriving at 6.55pm for a 7pm order.


Given it was just dinner for the two of us, I tried to control my usual over-ordering desires and simply ordered two entrees and two mains. I even skipped ordering our usual serve of delicious fragrant coconut rice so that we didn’t fill up on empty carbs. Everything came nicely packed in a mix of styrofoam containers, plastic takeaway boxes, and foil-lined paper bags.

Crispy Soft Shell crab with Black Pepper Sauce, $22
Crispy Soft Shell crab with Black Pepper Sauce, $22

The first main I ordered was the Crispy Soft Shell Crab with Black Pepper Sauce. I’m an absolute fiend for soft shell crab and try to order it whenever we go out. I have to admit though that I was a little apprehensive about how this would turn out given that fried food doesn’t always travel well – it’s the type of thing you really need to eat almost immediately after it comes out of the deep fryer. This turned out incredibly well though, with the soft shell crab still crispy and crunchy after the trip from Chatswood to our apartment. The ‘black pepper sauce’ was a bit disappointing though, as it was a mere drizzle on the side salad rather than a full dipping sauce like I had envisioned.

Golden Tofu (4 Pcs), $7.50 and Crab and Prawn Rice Net Spring Roll (5 Pcs), $8.50
Golden Tofu (4 Pcs), $7.50 and Crab and Prawn Rice Net Spring Roll (5 Pcs), $8.50

Entrees were the Golden Tofu and the Crab and Prawn Rice Net Spring Rolls. The rice net spring rolls are just that little bit more interesting than normal spring rolls because of its interesting texture. Other than that, they were pretty standard spring rolls, and like the soft shell crab still managed to stay crispy! The tofu was quite enjoyable – it was a simple base that worked really well with the peanut sauce dipping sauce that it came with.

Stir Fried Crispy Pork Belly with Chinese Broccoli, $18
Stir Fried Crispy Pork Belly with Chinese Broccoli, $18

This Crispy Pork Belly with Chinese Broccoli was a real highlight. I had thought that the pork belly would be cooked with the broccoli which would have been quite questionable in terms of how it would remain crispy. Thankfully when it arrived, the dish actually came in two parts – the stir-fried Chinese broccoli in a plastic container full of sauce, and the crispy pork belly chunks in a foil-lined paper bag. Though the dish is technically supposed to be eaten together, it’s just as nice to separate the two different elements and eat them separately – the pork belly equal parts fatty and crispy, and the broccoli flavourful with a real chilli hit.

K and I really enjoyed our dinner from Sumrayn Thai, courtesy of EatNow’s Sydney CBD Food delivery. Service was prompt and polite, food was surprisingly good having survived the trip to our apartment, and we even got a bit of a discount with 15% off the first order, making dinner for two (with leftovers for the next day!) an easy $50.60. EatNow made ordering online superbly easy, and we’d definitely consider them again the next time we need takeaway food!

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Note: This review was sponsored by EatNow, but all words and images are my own.