Originally published on Broadsheet.
The cult Thai restaurant from Sydney sets up in a city laneway.
Somporn Phosri developed a strong work ethic as a young boy in Thailand, where he worked for his mother’s restaurant in Isan, a region in the country’s north-east.
While Phosri’s mother was at the market from 2am each day to buy that day’s ingredients, he and his two siblings were entrusted with setting up the restaurant and making sure everything was in top condition by the time their mother returned. Phosri pretty much began his hospitality career at six years old.
“As a teenager I was difficult, so my mum sent me to Australia to fix me up and be more independent,” Phosri says.
After working in a few different Sydney restaurants, Phosri set up Thai street-food chain Dodee Paidang. It quickly attracted a loyal following up north for its affordable, tasty and diverse offering, with shopfronts in Haymarket, Bondi Junction and Cabramatta.
“If you want to taste real Thai, visit one of my restaurants,” Phosri says.
Now Melbourne has its very own Dodee Paidang at the bottom of the Hotel Causeway, just off Little Collins Street.
As you descend down each step to the basement restaurant, chatter and music grows louder. When you finally reach the 150-seat restaurant, you’ll be hit with the potent aroma of Thai soups, skewers and desserts while the songs of Ronan Keating, Celine Dion and Whitney Houston play in the background. The music may be Western, but the food is bona fide Thai.
“We serve things most Thai restaurants don’t,” Phosri says. “Dodee Paidang is not fusion – we offer either traditional-style street food, or things we have invented ourselves.”
Most dishes are inspired by Isan cuisine, but the vast menu showcases flavours and plates from all over Thailand.
One specialty is keaw tod – a quail egg-filled wonton fried and skewered. Almost every table orders fried bread with pandan custard, Phosri says, while another crowd favourite is moo ping – a sticky glazed-pork skewer that’s mild on the spice scale. Other dishes aren’t as heat-friendly.
Each one of Dodee’s tom yum soups, for example, is labelled with its spice level, from zero to seven. “Level one means one teaspoon of chilli, two means two teaspoons and so on,” Phosri explains. “Level seven will blow your head off – even I can’t eat it.”
Group-friendly dishes include pad thai, seafood platters, papaya salads and plates full of barbequed meat. Phosri recommends diners don’t leave without sampling the sticky flour and coconut cakes, which are steamed in banana leaves.
“My mother is extremely proud of what I have achieved here,” Phosri says. “That hard work as a young boy has definitely paid off.”
Basement 353 Little Collins Street, Melbourne
Image credit: Jake Roden.