Apparently where the club Honky Tonks used to be...but we three relatively nouveau Melbournians don't remember it. What we did notice this wet night was it was so typically Melbourne. Off a back graffitied back street, almost unnoticeable signage, through an inconspicuous doorway into a startling big dining restaurant. Unexpectedly large with an open kitchen and bar and lots of tables to the back.
The welcome was warm and friendly enough. Drinks were ordered quickly and we decided to let the wait staff decide on our food and leave it to them. Our waitress seemed very efficient and at ease with coming up with a feast accommodating the dietary requirements of our pregnant guest.
Pappadums with a tomato, red onion and coriander salsa were what Charlotte specifed she had to try and they were crispy and fresh and the salsa was a good accompaniment which was tasty but really did just taste of tomato, red onion and coriander. Not really unlike anything I couldn't reproduce at home.
The Crystal Bay prawn and chicken salad with green beans, chilli and coconut that came next was much more satisfying. Big chunks of sweet prawn and meaty chicken with crunchy greens. Looking at it I was expecting the tanginess and creaminess of mayonnaise but it's actually more like coconut cream so it didn't feel oily or fatty and the tang came from the fresh lime cheek on the side. Loved the hints of coconut both in the subtle dressing and the toasty bits sprinkled on top.
We then moved onto Avani’s lamb curry with roasted coconut, black cardamom and white poppy seeds along with naan bread and a dish of fried cauliflower, garam masala salt, fenugreek and yoghurt dressing.
The curry wasn't spicy in terms of chilli heat but was fragrant and aromatic with the warmth of black pepper. The meat was tender and the naan bread was great dunked in sauce. It was a decent enough curry and was on a par with the curries from other establishments like Red Spice Road, Coda, Bang Pop, Chin Chin etc. Although I think the duck curry from Bang Pop has the edge...just...
The roasted cauliflower was great - unusual and the sharp tang of the yoghurt dressing cut through the rich flavours of the curry.
And that was our meal. It was probably the right amount and gave us space in our bellies to order dessert. I think one more dish wouldn't have gone amiss though and was surprised they didn't bring another main.
I went with coconut rice pudding, mango sorbet, pineapple chiboust and shortbread. This was a great way to finish the meal not being that huge a chocolate fan. To me a great dessert isn't necessarily chocolate and I prefer non cooked fruit creations like this. I loved the creaminess of the rice pudding, the tang of the sorbet and the textures and butteriness of the shortbread crumbs. Claire agreed having dipped a spoon in both camps. She enjoyed another berry based mocktail as her dessert.
Tonka isn't the place for a chicken jalfrezi, rice and naan and several pints of Kingfisher. In all honesty, we've not found a place like that in Melbourne. It's unusual fusion, quite light and delicate. Certainly enjoyable and different to the usual Thai / Chinese fusion. This new kid is quite welcome on the block.