We had noticed The Phat Pantry when in the Pinelands Plaza area for other food (Sonder Dessert and Topokki 88 are both nearby), and thought about going there for something different for a weekend brunch. We navigated the traffic in the carpark (Pinelands Plaza gets pretty crowded at lunch and dinner times), and made our way to the storefront.
The signage is easy enough to spot as one approaches it down the walkway, stating “The Phat Pantry” in cursive, but still legible lettering. Pictures of some of their dishes stuck to the glass gives would-be diners an idea of what is available.
There was only one staff member waiting tables, but we caught their attention easily as we walked through the door. They indicated that we could sit at any available table, and brought us menus, and water. With the cold water came cups made of pressed metal, with ornate patterns imprinted on them.
While it wasn’t a large space, it didn’t feel cramped. Wood-topped tables and light wood chairs were arranged to seat two or four, but could be reconfigured to accommodate larger groups. It was comfortably air-conditioned. The walls were painted a light grey, and simply decorated with a couple of pictures, and wooden frames that held tins of condensed milk and tea. This gave it a touch of local Thai flavour.
We could smell fish sauce and other cooking aromas from the kitchen, separated from the dining area by a curtain behind the service counter. In a glass cabinet at the service counter were some other tidbits not in the menu, such as croissants, and slices of pandan crepe cake and thai milk tea crepe cake.
The menu was a printed booklet, which helpfully had colourful photos of many of their dishes. That is certainly helpful for those who aren’t 100% familiar with Thai cuisine. After going through the options, we decided to order one of the entrees, and a couple of dishes from the Chef’s Special section. (Despite Pad Thai always being a tempting option, we decided to try other items instead.) We discovered that the curry we ordered didn’t come with rice, and that that had to be ordered separately.
One of the mains was being brought out first, and then the entree and the other main afterwards (but not too long after).
The entree we had ordered was the Grilled Pork Skewers, described in the menu as a famous Thai style grilled pork marinated with soy, garlic, and pepper. Four of the pork skewers were served on a rectangular dish, that also had a little corner partitioned section for dipping sauce. The pork was tender, and had been done with a sweet marinade, Although some parts had a touch of char on them, the meat didn’t really have charcoal roasted or smokey notes. The dipping sauce was more sweet then salty, but had a hint of fish sauce tang. The overall flavour of the dish was sweet, but we were hoping for more garlic and savoury flavours.
The first dish that had been brought out was the Choo Chee curry with crispy soft shell crabs. It was listed in the menu as just that, soft shell crabs cooked in choo chee curry sauce, kaffir lime leaves, and topped with coconut cream. There had not been a picture of this dish in the menu, and it wasn’t quite what we expected when brought out. We had anticipated a bowl of creamy curry, but instead were delivered a dish with a small pile of the soft shell crab pieces on it, and the curry as a sauce drizzled over it. Coconut cream was striped underneath the little heap, and a salad occupied the other end of the plate. The soft shell crab had a crunchy, light batter on it. The choo chee curry was coconutty, with sweetness, saltiness, and a little heat. They had asked what spiciness level we would like it at when we were placing our order, and we had asked for it to be mild. If you would like it extra spicy, they can do that for you too. Fresh chopped coriander sprinkled over it added another fresh note to the dish. Because the soft shell crabs were not swimming in sauce, much of the batter remained crisp.
We were a bit disappointed that the curry dish didn’t come with rice, and it was even more so after it was actually placed on the table. While the Choo chee curry and soft shell crabs were quite tasty, it was $19.90 for what was not really a giant serving. We buy rice, and we cook rice, so are aware of what it costs (not much). To have to add $2.50 for one serving of rice, to a dish that was not really complete without rice, seemed like a rip-off. The rice itself was alright, not clumpy or soggy..but it was steamed plain rice, not even something more special, like coconut rice or sticky rice (that would have been $4.50 or $5).
The other main dish we had was the Tam Tok Moo, grilled marinated pork neck mixed with fresh herbs, red onion, ground roasted rice, shallots, chilli, and lime juice. This was served in a stoneware bowl, to contain the runny sauce. The same salad of shredded cabbage that had been served with the other dishes was placed atop the pieces of pork. The pork neck pieces were on the chewy side, but that may be the nature of the cut of meat rather than just how they were cooked. Carrot strips and mint leaves added a different texture. The sauce with it had tart, bright flavours, a mix of sweet and sour, a bit vinegary with a faint heat. It had fresher flavours than the other dishes, but was certainly punchy rather than mild. Again though, this was not a complete dish without rice, but the expectation was that you would order the rice separately.
As mentioned, there was only one person waiting on the tables. There were four other tables also occupied at the time we were there, but the waitstaff managed it efficiently, so we didn’t feel like we were left waiting. One of us accidentally dropped their spoon while eating, and the waitstaff came over to replace it promptly, before we could even ask.
Overall, the dishes we had at The Phat Pantry were mostly quite tasty. The Choo chee curry and soft shell crab dish was definitely our favourite. The Tam Tok Moo had the blend of Thai flavours you would expect. It was quite standard rather than standout though, and I don’t know that we would specifically go across town to eat here again.
Price point: Entrees $7.50 to $18.90. Mains $12.90 to $22.90. Rice and extra sauces to be ordered separately.
Value: Could be better.
Address: Pinelands Plaza Shopping Centre, Shop 30/663 Beenleigh Road, Sunnybank Hills
Phone: 07 3344 1127
Website: The Phat Pantry