By Thang Ngo
A new restaurant is opening in town and it’s generating a bit of excitement. Green Peppercorn Lao-Thai restaurant is opening on Saturday and it has a fine pedigree. Brother and sister team Tona and Nicky Inthavong stand behind Green Peppercorn. If their name sounds familiar it’s because Tony Inthavong, of the wildly successful Holy Basil, is their brother.
For years, Tona has managed front of house for Tony at Holy Basil. Now Tona is branching out with Green Peppercorn, he’s general manager, sister, Nicky is head chef. Green Peppercorn is located in the Fairfield Hotel, under new owners for the past 12 months. Campbell Rogers, the hotel’s general manager is particularly excited at this innovative collaboration.
Restaurants in the local area have built success on great food and low prices, just don’t expect fancy service or flash decor. Holy Basil changed all that, in a review back in October 2010, noodlies said of the new upstart “…This Thai-Laos restaurant oozes inner city sensibility in the heart of Sydney’s south west. Stunning decor, attentive service, a Maître d’, unheard of luxuries in Canley Heights. And the locals are lapping it up”.
Green Peppercorn is looking to take it up another notch; taking the “inner city sensibility” to the heart of Fairfield – yes, stunning gold and silver Apsaras abound and you’ll find an actual, working tuk tuk on display. And that sophistication comes with sophisticated hours, Green Peppercorn includes Sugacane Dessert Bar which will open late serving up exotic cocktails like lychee martinis and a range of desserts.
Tona is proud of his Lao heritage, he says the first Lao restaurants started in Fairfield and now he’s taking his new venture back to where it all started.
Noodlies, Sydney food blog got an exclusive, pre-launch menu tasting consisting of 14 dishes and a one-on-one with the charming Tona (see noodlies featured video above).
The first dish seduces me right away and screams authenticity. Dried beef is hugely popular across south-east Asia but rarely mentioned in reviews of Lao-Thai restaurants. It’s literally home made by Tona’s dad and brought to the restaurant. Chewy, salty and sweet the dried beef is best enjoyed with a glass of icy cold Asian beer; there’s a good range to choose from, Singha (Thai), 333 (Vietnam) and of course, Beer Lao.
The chicken satay is delicate, tender but with delicious crunchiness that comes the burnt edges. Satay and coconut sauces are not too overpowering, allowing you to taste the chicken.
The som tum (green papaya) salad most people are familiar with is the Thai version. Tonight we have both, but I’m particularly fond of Lao som tum, distinguished by use of fermented fish paste that renders the sauce a dark brown colour. It’s a much more pungent, spicy and for me, far rewarding experience.
Lao sausage is another variation from the more familiar Thai version. Again, the Lao version carries stronger flavours, more lemongrass, garlic and fish sauce.
Duck salad is one of my fav dishes, the strong, gamey duck is a great contrast to the abundant fresh, zesty vegetables and herbs. Tonight the duck is a little fatty but I’m told it’s been bought in, when Green Peppercorn opens the duck will be bbq in house.
Charcoal chicken is taking over restaurants in the area, it started with Hai Au in Canley Vale, now diners can enjoy tender, smoky chicken cooked with Green Peppercorn’s own charcoal cooker.
I’ve never been much of a fan of fried quail, an unfortunate exposure to dry, oily birds at Chinese wedding banquets. Here, it’s crisp and maintains a terrific balance between being too bony and too meaty. Dunk in the chilli fish sauce and it’s a delicious spicy change from the usual salt and pepper dip.
Crying tiger is another popular standard, thin slices beef that’s a little fatty, marinated in a salty, sour and spicy sauce. The fatty cut works much better with the range of strong and diverse flavours in this dish. Ask for extra chilli to literally experience crying tiger.
Basil chilli chicken (pad kha prow) is another crowd favourite. I’m not a fan of the thick, overly spicy sauce at some other places. It’s almost perfect here, strong tastes and texture without the heavy-handedness allowing you to still taste the fresh ingredients.
Tom yum goong (prawn) is delicate amazingly refreshing, clear soup with the ingredients lightly cooked retaining their flavours. You’ll notice it most in the prawns which are firm and brightly coloured retaining a strong seafood taste.
Nem khao is one of my weaknesses, while it’s lesser known, when we introduce it to friends they become instant converts. This fried rice is crunchy and contains ‘nem’ – spicy, pickled pork.
Sugacane Dessert Bar, part of Green Peppercorn is destined to be a hit with clever east-meets-west delights. I’m told the deconstructed fried ice cream made famous at Holy Basil will be on the menu. But it’s the pandan desserts that have me intrigued. The jaw-dropping, stunningly beautiful pandan creme brulee has to be seen to be believed. The dish is large, but shallow so you’ll get the full brulee crunchiness. While the colour looks fierce, the pandan taste is subtle. This brulee will be an immediate hit.
Can you get more east-meets-west than pandan macaron with home made pandan and coconut ice cream? While not as spectacular as its creme brulee cousin, this dish is no less stunning. Gooey macaron, very lightly flavoured with pandan meets lightly coloured ice cream that is full of flavour from both coconut and pandan.
Holy Basil started the trend of great food, plus great decor and service, in the process becoming an instant hit,especially with the younger crowd. These diner want the complete package and they’re willing to pay for it. Green Peppercorn takes the experience further with a dessert bar, cool cocktails at a new, late night venue conveniently located in Fairfield CBD. Conscious of the younger, social media sassy customers, Green Peppercorn is already on facebook, while still a week out from the grand opening, already has over 500 ‘likes’.
I know Green Peppercorn is still a week from opening, but I’m calling it early: this place will be a hit.
Green Peppercorn Lao-Thai Restaurant & Sugarcane Dessert Bar
1-3 Hamilton Road, Fairfield
This exclusive, pre-launch menu tasting experience was courtesy of Green Peppercorn and the Fairfield Hotel.
I could barely get past the photo of the dried beef up there! On a chilly morning like this I’d give anything to be sipping a cold 333 and eating dried beef again! Looks like a great menu.
I have never written any review/comment for any establishment before and I hate to be the whiner but I felt compelled to share my experience with this one.
So my brother and I decided to try Green Peppercorn at Fairfield on a Saturday night. Fairfield isn’t known to produce good quality restaurants but from outside, Green Peppercorn seemed to have a pleasant atmosphere. They have an inviting logo, spacious table arrangements (peeking through the window), and a see through kitchen where you can see the staff preparing your food. The place was recently renovated therefore you can expect a clean and tidy establishment. I’ve also heard some really good comments from friends and colleagues. So we though, why not give it a try!
We came in through the door delighted by the number of people present at the restaurant. The vibe was good even though It was full house! There was no one at the door to welcome customers but at that time it wasn’t a big deal for us. We stood at the reception area for about 5 minutes until a waiter/concierge came to us and offered a table for two. We were quite pleased as it took them fairly quick to sit us at a table considering the number of people present at that time.
As soon as we sat down, the NIGHTMARE began. The waiter/concierge took off in a flash as soon as we took our seats. We were expecting to at least be able to order our drinks or be offered the menu so we can start deciding what to get. But none of that! We quietly sat there thinking, perhaps they’re just really that busy and they should cater us anytime soon. 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes have past and still no waiter/waitress to take our order. My brother wanted to get someone’s attention but I told him not to as I wanted to see how they’d handle their delay. Waiters and waitresses usually look after a certain area therefore they should know when a table hasn’t been served. Now 30 minutes have past and the staff still kept passing our table as if we were in a twilight zone. Even the customers sitting next to us were wondering what was going on with our table. My brother and I finally caught a waiter’s attention and explained our situation. I couldn’t help myself from raising my voice at the poor waiter as I truly was disappointed. I felt bad afterwards but I really think they needed to hear my frustration at that time. Anyway, we let that one go and finally made our order. About 10 minutes later, a waiter came to us and told me that they’ve ran out mangoes (for the Mango shake I ordered). I told them that it was fine so I just ordered an Avocado shake instead. Minutes later, another waiter or perhaps the manager (wearing a semi-formal shirt) came to our table asking me if it was an Avocado shake or a Durian shake that I ordered. He apologised for the mix up and told me that I can have the Durian free of charge and that the Avocado shake should be coming soon. I told him not to worry about the avocado and that I didn’t mind taking the Durian shake instead but he seemed genuinely worried with the mix up and insisted that we keep it. Then another waiter came to his aid and told him that the Durian shake was for another customer then they both took off our table with the Durian shake which I thought was already given to us for free. My brother and I and the couple next to us looked at each other, we didn’t quite know how to react to it so we just laughed quietly shaking our heads in disbelief. The food eventually came which took about 30 minutes (awfully long) since we ordered. None of the waiters/waitresses (except for the guy who looked like the manager) came back to our table more than once as if our table were being avoided by every staff. Either they were too embarrassed to face us or too scared to get yelled at.
We didn’t make a scene or anything and in fact we were very polite even when I was complaining (my voice raised a little) at the first waiter who served us. I am not the type of person who would make a scene at any establishment for any small inconvenience but our experience blew my patience out of the water which made me feel compelled to write this review/comment. Screw up after every screw up really isn’t tolerable.
Perhaps it really just was a bad day for us because other customers seemed satisfied. I I really hope our experience last night don’t happen to anyone else because this restaurant really has plenty of potential and it can be a great asset for Fairfield.
To sum it all up, they served the BEST FOOD and provided the WORST CUSTOMER SERVICE! The food was so good and the customer service was so bad that going back to Green Peppercorn will be a dilemma.