Yok Thai Tapas, Neutral Bay

Thai tapas?  I admit I was dubious when this restaurant first opened in Neutral Bay a few years ago. Was it going to be fusion? If it was, how could the strong Thai flavours successfully work with Western cuisine?

 salmon ceviche with avocado, ponzu, flying fish roe, truffle oil & shiso

salmon ceviche with avocado, ponzu, flying fish roe, truffle oil & shiso

Now before I carry on and risk sounding like like a food-blogging tosser, let me deviate for a paragraph or two and qualify my intentions for writing about restaurants. I do not tout myself as a restaurant expert or gourmand and therefore have no desire to review restaurants as if I were. I like to write. I like to eat. So I'm going to write about what I like to eat.

Make no mistake though. I am writing about restaurants for selfish reasons. I'm only writing about restaurants I like. I want to spread the good word about them because I want them to stay in business and keep ME happy! I cannot count the number of times I've bemoaned the closure of a restaurant I love and repented too late, "if only I'd gone there more often," "if only I'd taken more people there." MoVida, Sel et Poivre, Japaz, Tomislav, Chez Rene, Uchi Lounge- RIP.

Dining blog mission statement done. Back to Yok Thai.

In my humble opinion, mixing cuisines can lead to calamity or something heavenly if done with a deft palate.  The grey areas don't taste good. Japanese cuisine lends itself well to fusion largely because its mild flavours can benefit from being uplifted by Peruvian flavours Nobu-style or complimented by French flavours and techniques the way Tetsuya does it. But super aromatic Thai cuisine with lots of chillies? Hmm...

 prawns on betel leaf

prawns on betel leaf

Then there's the tapas description. If by tapas they mean small dishes to be shared, can they pull it off and really go beyond curry puffs and spring rolls? Or will it be a glorified Thai mixed entree but on separate plates?

These misgivings and the sad fact that the restaurant's main view is a brightly fluorescent Woolworth's store across the road meant it took me me several months before venturing to make a booking.

Twelve months later and we've taken at least 10 different groups of people who've all wanted to go back. That doesn't include those other times Mr B and I have just popped in for a quick dinner - and picked up some toiletries or a packet of mint slice at Woolies, so the proximity has its perks.

 shucked oyster with lime, chilli nam jim & crispy shallots

shucked oyster with lime, chilli nam jim & crispy shallots

Yok Thai does fusion lightly and wisely. The large tapas menu mixes Thai cuisine with flavours from China, Japan, Italy, South America and France. You can expect salmon ceviche, Thai seasoned fries, steamed scallop & pork belly wonton and stuffed zucchini flowers.  Don't miss the twice-cooked pork belly that has been slow-cooked to melt in your mouth but only after it has been crisped up in a light golden batter and tossed in a sweet savoury sauce.

There are a lot of dishes that are still unadulteratedly Thai like curries, satay sticks, fish cakes and stir-fries and Yok Thai does them well. But if all you want is regular Thai, kindly go somewhere else and free up some tables for the rest of us that go there for the tapas (or gub glam, meaning food eaten with alcohol).

 spicy prawn crackers with pork and crab meat dip

spicy prawn crackers with pork and crab meat dip

 crispy mini chicken wings

crispy mini chicken wings

Somehow having tapas feels more fun and sociable. You get to sample a bigger variety of food. You use your fingers more. You probably drink more and laugh more. Even the food looks fun. If that's not fun enough, you'll be pleased to know you can BYO and grab your wine from the bottle shop across the road. With the average tapas dish being around $15-$20, tapping your bank cards at the end of your meal won't hurt so much.

Yok Thai's fit-out reflects the same vibe. The space is dimly lit like a wine bar but with candles, wooden tables and dark cabinetry that cosy up the place. The eclectic mix of decor with only a faint whiff of hipster makes the atmosphere modern and lively.

A final note. I know I've gone on about the tapas - but if you're going to make an exception (which I often do but only for this), do it for the truffle fried rice. Please. How those ugly little lumps of fungus can transform so many dishes is a glorious mystery to me. Check it out at yokthaitapas.com.au and makes us all happy.

 TFR - truffle fried rice with crab meat & mushrooms

TFR - truffle fried rice with crab meat & mushrooms

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