The best Thai outside of the CBD can be found in an extremely popular little café-style restaurant on Grange Road: 82 Thai Eatery.
Great Thai is hard to find in the suburbs. While the city’s Thai offerings improved dramatically when restaurants such as Kin Kin Thai Eatery, Sukhumvit Soi 38, Lantern by Nu and Golden Boy opened their doors, the same can’t be said of the suburbs. Thai in the `burbs is often a take-away container of stir-fried protein and veg swimming in sickly sweet sauce from your local, which, to cater for all tastes, is a fusion of Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese.
Then there’s 82 Thai Eatery.
Located in Grange, a suburb that is not exactly a restaurant hotspot, 82 Thai’s no-fuss compact menu of Thai favourites – including massaman beef curry and pad Thai (arguably the best in Adelaide) – and fusion dishes – including grilled Atlantic salmon choo chee and whole baby barramundi – are fresh, clean and not too spicy. A favourite of residents from Adelaide’s western and coastal suburbs, 82 Thai Eatery is packed every night. But it wasn’t an instant success.
A touch over five years ago, the husband and wife team of June Sukho and Theewin Chuajuk, who is also the head chef, took over the space, then a café called Café 82, which the couple ran as a traditional café for about a year.
“We didn’t know anything about café food, so we were just running with what they were doing and it wasn’t working out,” Sukho says. “We tried running it as a café in the mornings and turned it into a Thai restaurant at night. We were getting local customers but then we realised that no one wants to come for breakfast and dinner at the same place. We made a decision to do just Thai. It wasn’t busy at the start but then it started to pick up, word of mouth, and people starting dropping past.”
Now, you need to book if you want any chance of landing a table, even in the middle of the week. Its 42 seats are occupied most nights while the kitchen staff of four prepare a never-ending stream of take-away orders that fly out the door while patrons dine in the welcoming casual café-style space.
They’ve found the optimum middle-ground with their menu, which appeals to a diverse cross-section of local diners as well as those with a spicy South East Asian-friendly palate. It’s Thai at its most approachable. “It was quite hard to find a middle-ground of what people like taste-wise,” Sukho says. “Some of the dishes have stayed on the menu from the beginning and some we have added. We take off what people don’t really like. We put new dishes up on the specials board just to see what the feedback is. We go from there.”
Despite being packed every night, Sukho says they will stay in their small corner-space on Grange Road. “We’ve been looking around but everyone knows where we are,” she says. “We don’t have a sign, we’ve never had a sign but everyone knows where we are here.” At the moment, they don’t even have a website, as Sukho is designing a new one but, for now, it matters little, as diners can reach them on Facebook.
In an area bereft of dining options, 82 Thai is a revelation.
“Around here there is nothing like what we do,” Sukho explains modestly. “People compare us to other restaurants – like, don’t compare us, we do different things. I think we’re different [to what’s available] in the Grange area and that’s why people like the food – it’s different.”
665 Grange Road, Grange
Hours: Tuesdays to Thursdays: 5.30pm to 9.30pm, Fridays to Sundays: 12pm to 4.30pm and 5.30pm to 9.45pm
Photography: Sia Duff