When people disparage the suburbs and the people who live in them, I always think to myself 'What a wanker'. Most of us come from the suburbs and eventually return there, after a stint of inner city cool and shared housing hell during university and early working life. Restaurants like Bussaracum are a reminder that the suburbs are not the soul-less wasteland that some may think.
Over the Christmas season we have been catching up with family and friends, and the Tuesday evening after Christmas saw us catching up with a friend in Ivanhoe at Bussaracum Thai Restaurant. Bussaracum specialises in a style of Thai cuisine known as 'Royal Thai'. Rosemary Brissenden, in her excellent cookbook South East Asian Food, tells me that Royal Thai cuisine has its basis in the court of the Kingdom of Ayutthaya, an area north of modern day Bangkok, which was open to foreign trade. South Indians and Malays involved in foreign trade settled there, bringing with them the spices of their trade, coconut milk and chilli from the Portuguese.
Bussaracum sits atop the first floor of a brown, institutional-looking brick building on Upper Heidelberg Road that was probably built in the 1970s, quite an unprepossessing location for such a wonderful restaurant. We arrived around 8.30pm for dinner and were treated to views of a beautiful sunset across the Melbourne skyline. The suburbs hide little gems like this and the focus on Royal Thai cuisine lifts Bussaracum above its suburban counterparts.
To begin with we ordered a trio of dumpling-type entrees: Puak Sod Sai, Khao Krieb and money bags.
The taro pastry wrapped around the minced chicken, prawn and mushroom of the Puak Sod Sai was quite delicious and provided an interesting texture that hinted at chewiness as you bit into it. The lurid green colour of the Khao Krieb was both off-putting and mesmerising. Filled with minced pork and crushed peanuts, the outer pastry was soft and sweet from the drizzling of palm sugar. This was our favourite of the three - something very different from what we were expecting that offered interesting flavours and texture. The money bags were a familiar item and while the crispy pouches filled with minced pork and chopped water chestnuts were well prepared, they didn't match the deliciousness of the other two entrees we ordered on the night.
For mains we again ordered three dishes: Cha duck, deep fried squid with spicy salt and Takrai. Given that all three of us were still in a post-Christmas food coma this was perhaps a little ambitious however, we gallantly made our way through the dishes.
I didn't drink alcohol on the night but in retrospect a Singha beer or two would have helped calm the mouth down after the cha duck. Desserts are also available but we were too full to try these. Service was attentive on the night. I was very impressed with Bussaracum and highly recommend it. We are planning our return there already.
Bussaracum Thai Cuisine
223 Upper Heidelberg Road