When we arrived at Nelson Bay during a cyclone that caused the entire area to lose power resulting in every restaurant shutting its doors, I did wonder if we would have any luck finding somewhere to eat for the night.
By a stroke of good fortune the power was returned to our part of the area at around 7.30pm. I fired up my laptop and googled restaurants in the area. I found the local Thai and gave them a call. David, the owner, answered the phone. I asked if he was open for business and he said, ‘I am now’.
Malai Thawng Thai is walking distance from Mantra Aqua and located in the centre of the town at Nelson Bay. The restaurant is owned by an Australian man who, over 20 years ago, was traveling through Thailand, fell in love and married and for 20 years they have run the Malai Thawng restaurant.
The restaurant is currently for sale and it does look like it needs freshening up as the decor is very dated. There are grey carpet tiles on the floor but then as a tribute to Thailand there are pictures and things on the walls that appear to have been put up rather haphazardly and perhaps as things have been acquired over time. There is a handmade sign letting you know the business is for sale and other handmade posters advising the work the owners are doing to support orphans in Cambodia and Thailand.
There is a Thai bar that is almost overwhelming in terms of the size of the structure and the architecture with its thatched roof and ornate features. There are also shelving units along some of the walls with an odd and non-cohesive assortment of ornaments.
David was our waiter for the evening and he was very affable and showed us to a table in the centre of the restaurant. There were red tablecloths on the tables but all tables were covered in plastic and on a hot and humid evening sitting on a vinyl chair and resting your arms on plastic, wasn’t very pleasant.
The restaurant is fully licensed but they do allow you to BYO for a very reasonable corkage charge. There was some music playing but it was Thai music and it was playing so softly it was barely discernible.
The menu didn’t have any surprises and instead included all the dishes we’ve come to know since Thai cuisine became a popular dining option in Australia. We started with spring rolls. These arrived quickly and were so hot we had to abandon them for a moment or two. They were fairly standard as was the dipping sauce that went with it and I thought there was more pastry than filling.
We ordered Alfie’s favourite which is deep-fried calamari. He really enjoyed it and Carl (who asked Alfie to share) said it was extremely tender and full of flavour.
The curry puffs were excellent; very light and not oily with a generous amount of filling. I would have liked to have ordered more of these.
From the specials we ordered the Siam Duck and this is a dish I hadn’t heard of before so I asked David how the duck was cooked and he said it was it was in sweet soy sauce and honey. That did sound rather sweet so I don’t know why I was surprised with the sweetness of the dish however I just thought it might have had some lime juice or tamarind paste added to balance the sweetness. The duck however with the shiitake mushrooms was beautifully cooked.
We ordered the Pad-Kra-Prao stir-fry with beef. For a stir-fry there did seem to be a lot of sauce on the plate but the stir-fry was very fresh, not overcooked and with a lovely balance of flavours.
Alfie had the deep-fried ice cream that was one of the specials. It was the first time he’d ever had deep-fried ice cream and he was very impressed. He ate all of it with no complaints.
We had a pleasant evening and were very grateful David was able to open the restaurant.
Verdict: Malai Thawng Thai is a fairly dated-looking restaurant that serves nothing out of the ordinary however it is conveniently located, licensed and BYO, has friendly, relaxed and casual service and the food is clean and fresh.
Malai Thawng Thai: 10/35 Stockton Street, Nelson Bay NSW 2315
Ph: (02) 4981 0044
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