The Grain, Hamilton

What: The Grain

Where: 54 Beaumont Street, Hamilton

Prices: Entrees and soups, $6.50 to $7.50;larger dishes $15.90 to $24.50; steamed jasmine rice $2.50 per serve

Wines: BYO plus a small wine list with four by the glass

Hours: Lunch every day 11am to 3pm; dinner every night 5pm to late. Takeaway and fast lunch service are also a feature

Vegetarian: Tofu is available with all the noodle, rice, stir-fry or curry options

Bookings: 4962 3444

Bottom line: Two can eat well for about $60

What's in a name? No pun on the word Thai here at The Grain, instead a nod to the importance that a grain, rice, plays in the country's diet.

The Thai owners have also opted for the use of English throughout the menu with great success this restaurant with its prominent position on a corner of Beaumont Street enjoys continuing popularity.

A cuisine that has borrowed from its Chinese neighbour for many years is not shy about borrowing from its adopted country. Don't be surprised to find crying kangaroo ($16.50) among the barbecue choices, or kangaroo pad cha ($18.50) in the chef's specials.

Marinated grilled lamb cutlets might keep grandpa happy while the kids tuck into mussamun curry ($14.50 and $15.50), pad thai with pork ($12.50) or popular chilli basil noodle ($9.50 to $16.50 depending on choice of protein).

The tables are cloth covered but that's not enough to deaden the echo from the wooden floors so this is not the place for a romantic tete-a-tete. Grab a few mates so you can work your way through shared dishes chosen from the extensive menu.

The undecided might start with a mixed entree ($7.50) of spring roll, curry puff, chicken wing, fish cakes and calamari rings but then you might miss out on the delightfully named lady blanket ($7.50 for deep fried king prawns coated with coconut shavings and wrapped in wonton pastry).

Money bags ($7.50 for four pieces) are neatly formed crisply deep-fried morsels of roughly chopped chicken and prawn wrapped in wonton pastry. The sweet chilli sauce for dipping doesn't taste as if it comes from a bottle; nor does the sauce with the fish cakes ($6.50 for six). They have a slightly chewy texture but just burst with flavour and aroma from kaffir lime, lemongrass and chilli. The curry puffs ($6.50) are light and crisp and contain a fragrant mixture of minced chicken, cubed potato and diced onion.

I look for larb under salads and find mince chicken salad ($15.50) instead. The chicken is finely sliced rather than minced. It's a little dry but there's nothing wrong with the flavours again, kaffir lime, chilli and lemon or the crunchy texture from the roasted ground rice. The chilli predominates without overwhelming.

But the best are still to come: the chef's special duck curry ($18.50) and pla tod ($24.50) deep-fried whole snapper with pepper, garlic, mushroom and brandy sauce.

A bowl of spicy red curry sauce conceals pieces of tender boneless duck complemented by the sweet and sour flavours from cherry tomatoes, fresh pineapple and whole red grapes.

The snapper's crisp skin hides sweet, white flesh. Sprigs of green peppercorns and extra sliced chilli add to the zing from a shower of kaffir lime leaves and Thai basil. Brandy, garlic and mushrooms give an earthy depth to the sauce.

The cooking is solidly Thai but you can happily take the chilli-challenged and have a great night.

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