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The ‘tao of Benchmarking – Doytao Drummoyne

doytao pad thaiPad Thai.

It’s somewhat of a benchmark dish for me; a common point of reference from which the quality of one Thai restaurant is judged over another. This particular version of the dish is from the Doytao restaurant located in Drummoyne, though there are a number of branches located within Sydney.

From discussions I’ve had with friends and acquaintances, the selection of a pad thai as a benchmark dish is somewhat of a controversial one. Some say that you need to take a holistic approach and try a large number of dishes. Others say that it’s just a bad choice to judge the quality of a restaurant’s dishes. Though I appreciate their points, I would beg to differ for a number of reasons:

  1. I love pad thai. It’s such a simple dish, yet it exhibits a range of textures and, when it’s done well, tastes really good too.
  2. The pad thai is a fairly simple and easy dish to prepare. If the restaurant provides a sad excuse for a pad thai, I couldn’t imagine how they would fare with a more complex or intricate dish.
  3. A pad thai is almost always made to order, so the question of freshness should fall squarely on the quality of the ingredients and not how long or how well a pre-prepared dish is holding up.
  4. A pad thai is usually a quick and inexpensive dish so only a small investment is required, both in time and money.
  5. I love pad thai :)

This pad thai, a chicken and prawn pad thai though it’s listed on the menu simply as “Pad Thai”, is not a bad effort for what’s available in Sydney. It holds up pretty well when compared to other cheap & cheerful Thai joints. However, my preference to date for the cheap end of town is the one from Tum’s Thai, Randwick.

This particular night, it’s not all just about the pad thai. Heck, I didn’t even order the pad thai! A friend and dining buddy of mine (they’re the same person if there’s any confusion) always orders the pad thai whenever he comes here. His point of view is unless there is something better that comes along “when you’re onto a good thing, stick to it”. My proverbial reply would be that “variety is the spice of life”.

Variety came in the form of two dishes – salad and fried rice. I’d been through the benchmarking phase at this restaurant previously so I knew what I was getting myself into.

doytao seafood saladSeafood Salad – $16.90

The friend remarks “there’s quite a lot of food there” with undertones of “you sure you want to eat that much, fatso?”.

He’s right. There was a lot of food for one. However, for me, especially with Asian dishes, it just feels wrong to have a single dish without some other dish acting as a contrast, accompaniment or counterpoint. It’s likely due to my traditional Korean upbringing whereby a meal almost always consisted of rice, one or two mains, and a number of sides dishes collectively referred to as banchan. When that much variety is typical, having just a single dish seems somewhat lacking.

The seafood salad was quite nice. Seafood was cooked well, the fresh Thai herbs added a nice aromatic and textural note to the dish and the hot, sour, salty and slightly sweet combination of the dressing worked well with the other components of this dish.

doytao tom yum fried riceTom Yum Fried Rice (Seafood) – $19.90

Yes, you read correctly and yes, that is the price. Quite pricey for fried rice, sure, but this wasn’t just any old fried rice. This was fried rice with its own marketing blurb. On the menu it reads:

Perhaps one of Thailand’s most famous flavour is now in rice form only at “Doytao”, this unique dish offers the same Tom Yum flavour of hot and sour added with fragrant herbs, seafood cooked and fried to perfection with rice. If you love Doytao’s Tom Yum, then this mouth-watering dish is a must!

The Tom Yum fried rice was somewhat of a wildcard dish for me. Other than the marketing blurb, I no idea what to expect, or know if the dish was going to be any good.

Was it good? I’d say as fried rices go, it was alright. It didn’t really taste like tom yum. It tasted more like something that was inspired by tom yum, if you understand what I’m getting at. It was in essence a tomato fried rice with thai herbs (lemongrass and what I believe was kafir lime leaves) with a bit of vinegar thrown in for a slightly sour twang. Though there was plenty seafood to speak of in this dish (hidden under the rice) I don’t quite think it was worth the asking price. Maybe something closer to the cost of the salad would have been preferred.

I ate all of the salad and doggybagged the majority of the rice for later consumption. It’s the price I pay for needing to have variety. However, having fried rice for lunch the next day wasn’t exactly much of a burden to bear :)

Is a pad thai a fair benchmark of a Thai restaurant? Do you have benchmark dishes and if so, what are they?

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{ 12 comments… add one }
  • Karen August 21, 2009, 12:02 am

    The boy loves his pad thai and it’s pretty much a landmark dish so if that fails then that leaves a very bad impression of the restaurant. It’s the same if a chinese restaurant does a bad fried rice (yes they exist).

    Anyhow, if you want a good pad thai, you should taste mine hehe.

  • Belle@OohLook August 21, 2009, 12:24 pm

    Pad thai is definitely a benchmark dish. The only problem is, there are so many average ones out there that your chances of having a bad experience are quite high. I like Doytao: I go to the one in Balmain, and they are always good, with OK prices.

  • Iron Chef Shellie August 22, 2009, 10:49 am

    Pad Thai is also my benchmark dish! It’s so true, if they can’t do a good pad thai, what hope have they got cooking other dishes?

    can’t believe the price of that fried rice though! ridiculous!!

  • Howard August 22, 2009, 4:18 pm

    I’m a little different! The benchmark for me is a good hot paw paw salad, beef jerky and sticky rice. If they can’t do that right, then I might have to try the pad thai and the pad see ew etc

  • penny aka jeroxie August 22, 2009, 7:21 pm

    Pad thai is one of the benchmark that I use. And also Tom Yum soup. The key is the broth and the balance of sweet, sour and hot. It is very hard to find a place that serves really good tom yum.

  • Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella August 22, 2009, 8:42 pm

    Sadly I don’t really like Pad Thai that much. I like protein and salad too much and that’s just a few too many noodles for me. I don’t mind sharing it among others but woudln’t choose it for myself.

  • Simon August 27, 2009, 9:07 pm

    Hi Karen! I’ll have to take you up on that offer if the opportunity ever arises :)

    Hi Belle! My utter favourite to date is the one from Longrain but it’s also the most expensive!

    It’s so true. Far too many bad ones around.

    Hi Iron Chef Shellie! The fried rice was nice enough but it didn’t quite live up to the blurb or price.

    Hi Howard! Ah! A differing opinion. Nice :)

    Interesting choices for benchmark dishes. This is, is it commonly available on Thai restaurant menus?

    Hi Penny! Ah, yes. Tom Yum soup would be a good choice. I agree, it can be hard to find a decent one.

    Hi Lorraine! So something like a larb I would imagine, or perhaps the seafood salad as in the post?

  • poptart September 8, 2009, 3:26 pm

    how come no one tries the curries? or more traditional dishes at thai restaurants? larb, som tum, bamboo shoots salad, morning glory, sausages…if you go to thai pothong what will you order? (they don’t have pad thai or many other stir fry noodle dishes)

  • Simon September 8, 2009, 10:05 pm

    Hi poptart! Perhaps it was the last time you went there or the last time I went there but there was certainly pad thai on the menu the last time I went to Thai Pothong. Not a bad effort too but not the best I’ve had.

    I have tried the curries there. The massaman is a killer! Bear in mind that the pad thai is merely a benchmark dish for the reasons listed. Of the 3-4 times I’ve been there, I’ve only ever had pad thai once, and I wasn’t the one who’d ordered it at the time.

  • Merry July 3, 2010, 1:16 pm

    Although it’s a good idea for a benchmark and as much as I loooooovvvvve Pad Thai, I find that there are some Thai restaurants who does average/bad Pad Thai, but do awesome curries, etc.

    The food that I like from Doy Tao Drummoyne is definitely not the Pad Thai, or their curries. However, I really like their Pad See Ew, Yummy Beef Salad, BBQ Chicken and their Volcanic Chicken.

    • Simon July 3, 2010, 3:18 pm

      Hi Merry! The benchmark isn’t without it’s faults for sure. However the way I see it, if something so elementary can’t be executed well, or even averagely, what are the chances the rest of their food would be good?

      I’ve had the pad see ew before, which was nice. Might have to give the others a go the next time I’m there :)

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