Gin Long Canteen

I was warned to expect a wait in line when visiting North Adelaide’s latest Asian offering.

I was warned to expect a wait in line when visiting North Adelaide’s latest Asian offering. Gin Long Canteen has moved into the space formerly occupied by a much less exciting oriental offering and has made all of the right changes to create an electric mood and buzzy atmosphere, complete with neon signage and oversized mosaic wall hangings. A diner-style eatery, literally spilling out onto the pavement on O’Connell Street, with an updated interior and effective use of every surface available for eating their refreshing fusion menu. Though unfortunate enough to be stood behind a group of complaining types not au fait with the marketing ploy of a no booking policy for groups less than six, our short wait for our table did give us time to soak in the sights and smells and to notice a familiar face working frantically in the open kitchen. Chef Nu Suandokmai has taken up residence after a short stint opening Golden Boy in the city, bringing his signature style into an eatery that has already created some noise on the culinary scene. I do love a good play on words, but decided to skip past the Gin Long ‘Liesling’ (see what they did there?) and there was a collective groan at the table having noticed the ‘Yellow Fever’ mandarin daiquiri. The fun and frivolity of this venue does get the thumbs up for its ‘how to eat rice paper roll’ instructions on the menucum-placemat, though I wished there were some at hand to try our skill as we waited for dishes to land. Seated at a booth style table, one of many options in this jam-packed space, it’s cozy yet open enough that you don’t feel too claustrophobic; kind of like Ikea I suppose. On advice from our cheerful waitress we started with the signature Gin Long Pandan infused gin. It arrived sealed in a ‘quirky’ plastic bubble-tea cup and was perfectly alcoholic but not as exotic or as infused as expected. The stab-it-yourself giant straw while functional in getting through the plastic layer was not the most pleasant to drink from, either. Big Gulps can stay at the footy. Making some of our own decisions proved a winner, with a much more palatable Longview ‘Boatshed’ Rose in preparation for the spice of our first few dishes. (The wine glass also verifyied itself as a much less comical method of getting liquid to mouth.) The Miang Kam is a sweet and spicy little Thai snack with flavors of tamarind and crunchy kai lan leaf, and the Betel Leaf Cigar was a great starter, dipped in a nuoc cham sauce – an Asian meatball, if you will. Both tasty and setting us off on an adventure of balance and flavour. As the main dishes arrived we realised we might have gone a little overboard when ordering. The dishes are all quite large, and thankfully all quite delicious. The pomegranate chicken features pan-fried chicken with more sweet tamarind and a hint of spice in the delicate sauce scattered with fresh pomegranate – easily my favourite dish of the night. The waitress had certainly got this recommendation spot on, though I may have felt a little less exclusive as it landed on every other table around us. Popularity can be a fickle thing. I badly wanted to try the spicy caramel chicken but to avoid the potential of same-same, and on negotiation with my dinner dates we went with the lychee duck curry – another delicious yet unassuming dish piled with cherry tomatoes and pineapple, topped with finely sliced chili and Thai basil; clean flavours with the perfect amount of heat. Lastly we tucked into the slow braised Thai beef ribs with cinnamon and Thai basil, along with a side of Vietnamese coleslaw. This melt in your mouth dish was bursting with flavour though would have been best eaten first as we reached our dietary consumption peak. Just as we came to terms with the imminent (overloaded) trundle home, complimentary crème caramel and chocolate mousse desserts arrived courtesy of the chef and to thank us for the slight delay between courses. A lovely gesture though these seemed out of place on an otherwise interesting Asian menu and were regrettably left as we made our way through the still crowded venue to settle the bill and depart. Gin Long Canteen 42 O’Connell St, North Adelaide 7120 2897

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