Eric Sudarja has been one of my favourite restaurateurs in Sydney for many years, ever since he ran Prasit's first North Sydney restaurant, in the beer garden of a Pub in the late 80's, back when Sydney's love affair with Thai cuisine was just beginning.
Many years and many restaurants later he is doing his own thing at Pomegranate, although a few of the dishes of Prasit's design have remained.
The restaurant is on the ground floor of a small terrace house towards the end of Darling Street, with easy local street parking inn the evenings.
Whilst the Thais do not eat entrees at a restaurant [for them they are street food to have when ever hungry, any time of the day], entrees or starters are almost mandatory for westerners and at Pomegranate are one of my priorities. When Eric had his upstairs Prasits at North Sydney I often lunched there, with just a selection of their wonderful entrees, not very Thai of me but I love the taste variations.
Start with the Steamed Scallops, served on the shell, big plump molluscs with roe attached, shreds of vermicelli and a sauce of lemongrass and chilli to give you that perfect Thai after taste.
That on-every-menu Chicken Sate is the first indication that this place gives 100% attention to the smallest detail, the crushed peanuts in the curry sauce are first shallow pan fried, just to soften them a bit. The chicken is in a strip of tender meat threaded onto the wooden stick, not stingy little dry pieces as so often encounterd elsewhere.
Balmain Rolls are deep fried crab meat & minced pork wrapped in tofu skin served with chilli & garlic sauce, their Pla Grob is crispy white-bait with roast coconut & cashew nut served on betel leaves.
Sweet Corn Cakes are lightly spiced sweet corn with cucumber sauce, maybe a throwback to Eric's native Indonesia [Pergedel Jagung], but I like both styles.
Mains are a mix of very traditional Thai, creations by the innovative Prasit [now a monk in Chiang Mai], and variations inspired by Eric himself, but all dishes are true to Thai cuisine style and taste.
The Roast Duck is done Choo Chee style, a product of Chinese influence on Thai cuisine centuries ago. The well spiced and marinated duck is roasted in red curry with winter melon and rambutan.
One of Prasit's greatest creations was to combine Rack of Lamb [the Thais rarely use lamb, they say they do not like the smell] with that wonderful Massaman curry from Thailand's south, the lamb is combined with potato chunks in full cream coconut milk spiced with cardamom, cloves and star anise. A masterpiece!
The simple King Prawn stir-fry has always been of the most popular dishes, just a mild curry with coconut milk, chilli, dried soya bean and basil, with big plump juicy prawns.
Other mains include Char-grill marinated spare ribs in Thai herb and spices served with tamarind and roast chilli sauce, Medium hot tumeric curry [yellow] with chicken, beef or pork served with sweet potatoes, a Lemongrass Chicken twice cooked slightly crispy boneless chicken thigh with spicy lemongrass sauce and the unique Banana Flower Salad, finely sliced banana blossom, coriander, fried Asian onion, peanut and chicken in coconut milk.
However their greatest dish of all is only available during mango season, Crisp Baby Barramundi with green mango, peanut & chilli/garlic dressing. The ultimate hot, sweet and sour taste of Thai! It may leave your lips just a little numb but the after taste is wonderful.
Quality Thai, without any short cuts, and at a price anyone can afford, in a small welcoming dining room, that is Pomegranate.