It’s tricky locating Red Opium on your first visit, but your efforts are rewarded with the innovative fusion dishes created by Thai chef Jak. There aren’t many restaurants in Perth located in a basement, so that’s another thing that sets this place apart. Our group of six agreed that we wanted to sample a cross section of dishes and opted for the $52pp Full Monty set menu. How could anyone resist a name like that?
The chilli crab dip was the opening event, and this featured crab meat and egg in a curry sauce, served with baguette. This was a perfect sharing dish and enabled us to get a feel for the dishes that were to follow.
Our first tapas dish was a picture perfect set of freshly shucked oysters with chilli and lime, served in shot glasses. These little beauties were downed in a matter of seconds.
Sashimi-grade salmon ceviche served with onions, chilli and wasabi was our second tapas choice, and continued the pleasant light spiced theme.
Our Full Monty menu included four mains and the groups agreed on a mix of dishes that seemed to please everyone. After a few glasses of red and a top up of Dutch courage, the guys in our group were eager to extend the Full Monty theme and entertain the other patrons with a makeshift floor show. Must have been something about dining in a cellar with red lighting and gauzy curtains that induced that harebrained idea, but fortunately the arrival of the mains put the guys’ attention back on the food.
The roast duck red curry with lychees and vegetables was rich and creamy with a meld of fine flavours. This satisfying dish of lush crispy skinned duck meat, combined with the sweetness of lychees and the zing of fresh herbs, was a favourite at our table. I have to qualify this and say I still haven’t found a version to match the one Galangal Thai Cuisine produces. I guess Galangal’s red duck curry is my yardstick, and I can’t help but compare it to every other Thai restaurant’s version. This is not a negative reflection on Red Opium by any means; it’s just that this dish is one of my all time favourites and comparisons are inevitable for me.
The Masaman beef curry was a hit with the guys – being all meaty and peanutty. I only had a potato, but managed with that to get a good a taste of the sauce which was redolent with tamarind, peanuts and coconut and a hint of cardamon.
Our next main was Pad Cha chicken, featuring a light, mild dish of chicken pieces cooked with green peppercorns, green beans, red capsicum and herbs. This was a refreshing change from the richer coconut-based curries.
Last but not least was another prawn dish; king prawn green curry with veggies. Different from the usual green curry, this version came with green peppercorns and a small amount of sauce, and delicious fat juicy prawns. Green curry is my least favourite Thai curry, but I did enjoy this dish which really didn’t resemble a green curry in the traditional sense.
Once again Red Opium proved to be a positive dining experience, dishing up a repertoire of innovative and interesting food. Whilst I love traditional Thai food, I also enjoy trying Thai food that dares to be different. Thai restaurants are proliferating in Perth so it’s wonderful to see a Thai chef doing something beyond the pale that sets him apart from the crowd. I’ve dined at Red Opium about six times over the past few years and have always enjoyed their creative and flavourful food. Service is friendly and efficient, and you always get the feeling you are a valued customer. If you enjoy Thai flavours but want to experience food that marries those flavours with imagination and passion, then make a booking for Red Opium.