Apple is a wonderful seasonal fruit found in the Cairns region of Queensland, Australia. It is believed to have originated in the West Indies.
20 years ago Ray Moore was in Sydney, where he was a key front-of-house part of the success of famed OZ Thai guru chef David Thompson in setting up Darley Street Thai and later, Sailors Thai, restaurants that changed the face of Thai cuisine in Australia, as David is now doing in Thailand itself.
Ray then moved to Cairns, and with Indonesian chef Apid who had worked in elite kitchens in Sydney for many years, opened Star Apple, the first Thai restaurant to succeed there. Now the duo of Ray and Apid have moved to Bali and Jln. Batu Belig, where Apit has teamed up with Sydney restaurateur Michael to open Star Apple Bali, presenting great Thai [and a few other Asian dishes] at quite incredible budget prices.
Star Apple is a pleasant space, an important part of eating out! Inside the glass box it is nicely air-conditioned, outside a small terrace for the smokers and above that a lounge area for eating, drinking and relaxing. In fact at first look you tend to expect a fairly expensive restaurant it is so stylish, subsequently the menu prices come as quite a shock, albeit a very pleasant one.
The main cuisine is Thai and all the simple favourites are there, but there us also a selection of other interesting Asian dishes, many not commonly found on the menus in Bali!
For Thai, start with that David Thompson stalwart Miang. A betel leaf is piled high with a mix of prawn, galangal, finger, crushed peanuts and palm sugar. Wrap the leaf around the filling and devour with a smile. Another special entrée is simply called Egg Nets, a net of egg is wrapped around a mix of school prawns, shallots, sprouts, and tamarind. The fresh, clean taste of Thai as you get that first burst of pure Thai flavour!
Gai Ho Bai Toey is just called Pandan Chicken and another favourite Thai starter that is more often than not messed up, even in Thailand, by lazy kitchens, but not at Star Apple. Pieces of chicken are marinated, tightly wrapped in pandan leaf and steamed so all the spices invade the meat, it is then quickly deep-fried just prior to serving to both brown the meat and to warm.
An Australian Thai special [rarely seen in Thailand] is the ever popular Curry Puffs, a feature on the menu at just about every Sydney suburban Thai restaurant, and there are hundreds of them. A rice paper parcel wrapped around a vegetarian mix featuring sweet potato, fried crisp and served with a nahm jim dipping sauce [hot, sour, sweet and salty, pure Thai]. .
Other simple Thai style starters include chicken and prawns wrapped in fried noodles, and simple Rice Balls, topped with curried minced chicken, lime leaves and chilli in a coconut sauce.
But it is the Lotus Dumplings that are the show-stopper! Dumpling flour is combined with beetroot to make a casing that is dark brownish-red, moulded into the shape of a small lotus flower. The stuffing is of minced chicken, garlic, crushed peanuts and palm sugar and they are served on a Chinese soup spoon [common these days with many tapas] sweet, tasty and sensational! Don't bother to share this one, order a serve [4 spoons] each. The couple of non Thai starters include one of Australia's most popular Cantonese dishes, San Choy Bow. Originally it used to be made using minced pigeon meat, but that has been almost universally replaced with minced chicken as it is at Star Apple. A pile of cold crisp lettuce leaves are provided to spoon in the meat mix that has been pre-mixed with plum or hoisin sauce, the result can be very messy to eat for the newbies, but definitely worth the effort. Although I did not think the addition of crisp noodles to the top did much to improve it.
Another dish of Stuffed Eggplant is of dubious origin, prawn and chicken inside, ginger and oyster sauce giving it a Chinese flavour. The many vegetarian options help to make it possible to dine on tasty small plates, with a myriad of tastes. The vegetarian Spring Rolls are from a Malaysian Chinese source, a plate of Dahl, with capsicum chutney, beetroot relish and roti, very Indian. Ma Hor is another David Thompson special he has served it as an 'amuse bouche' at every restaurant in which he has worked, including the now famous Nahm in Bangkok. Segments of mandarin or pineapple [depending on season] are topped with a mix of crushed peanuts, tempeh and palm sugar paste.
Khai Luuk Khuey [literal Thai translation, son-in-law eggs] are intriguing; hard boiled eggs are peeled, pan fried in palm sugar till golden then halved and covered with a sweet, sour and spicy tamarind sauce, fantastic and like many great tastes, so simple! The rather gruesome story goes that Thai mothers cook this dish for their soon-to-be son-in-laws as a warning about taking good care of their precious daughters, or else someone might find their own valuable bits removed, fried and sliced, served up in a hot, spicy sauce! Anyone who has ever come into contact with Thai family feuds could easily believe this story!
Salads begin with the popular Thai Green Papaya, and a more unusual one of Red Kidney Beans with toasted pumpkin and a lemon zest dressing.
Mains include Thai Green Curries [chicken], Yellow [barramundi] and the Padang Sumatra style, Beef Rendang, The Prawns are in tamarind and the Chicken Breast marinated in turmeric.
Rice and noodle dishes are essential in any Asian restaurant. Their Nasi Goreng is with chicken and shrimps, and Thai favourute Pad Thai can be with either chicken or prawns.
The desserts are surprisingly all western; Crème Brulee with lemongrass, Sticky Date Pudding with butterscotch sauce, Meringue Log with passionfruit, a Chocolate Amareto Tart or just a bowl of Strawberries with a chocolate dipping sauce.
All Gluten-free items on the menu are so marked, which we applaud! All serious restaurants should do the same, more are now doing it but not enough, it advertises the management?s professionalism!
For many years in Bali the few Thai restaurants were poor imitations of the real thing. That all changed with the arrival of Will Meyrick at Husk [then Blossom and now Sarong and MamaSan] followed by the early offerings at Café Deagan. Now we have another great Thai option with the tastes of home, and at budget prices to boot!
A big welcome to Star Apple!