People are more likely to turn off the highway into downtown Mittagong for quick coffee refuel, or to browse antiques, than to dine at a restaurant owned and run by Michelin-starred chefs. However, the addition of fine dining Thai restaurant Paste Australia, owned and run by celebrated chef, Bee Satongung, and her Mittagong-born chef husband, Jason Bailey, has changed all that. Now, people are not only stopping by on their post-lockdown travels, they’re actually driving down from Sydney, or up from Canberra, simply to sample Paste’s food.
Book Paste Well In Advance
Paste is currently booked out until September, 2020 (at time of writing). Luckily, one of my more organised friends got in early with a booking and a group of girlfriends and I gathered for dinner in July, desperate to try all the innovative creations. I couldn’t wait to get in, as I didn’t want to be influenced by others’ reviews.
Here’s my take on the eatery everyone’s talking about.
We’re talking stark here, folks. Don’t come here expecting warmth and colour, except in the spice in your food, of course.
With no sign of traditional Thai decor through the floor to ceiling glass frontage, we stepped into a large, white, elegantly cool room. It was very brightly lit and peppered with minimalist art.
Sydney-siders and a smattering of locals sat at undressed tables, spaced according to social distance regulations, which detracted from the ambiance somewhat. No fault of the restaurant there – you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do in times of Covid-crisis.
We were seated and immediately offered menus and drinks, which was a massive plus. We opted for the set menu, which at $80 per person, seemed like the best idea (and value, although it didn’t include wine, of course). The menu is pretty comprehensive and the six of us were having trouble deciding what to have between all the chat. Sometimes when you dine out, it’s best to let others do the decision making for you, I feel.
The traditional Thai cuisine boasts some very innovative twists. Tiny, pretty entrees arrived in quick succession, starting with fragrant Steamed Squid with Chilli and Lime Sauce followed by Squishy Smoked Trout Tapioca Dumplings.
Portions seemed very small when divided between the six of us but thankfully the mains were significantly heartier. We happily tucked into Smoky Southern Yellow Curry Of Gulf Of Thailand Red Spanner Crab, Hummingbird flowers, Thai Samphire and Turmeric and a Persian style Massaman Curry infused with Cardamom and Fresh Ginger. It was indescribably delicious.
Every dish was plated beautifully on Marc Neeson by Noritake bone China, making the meal all the more enticing. The wine list featured many local wines, all on the expensive side, so our group choose to order by the glass.
I’m not going to lie – I did really enjoy myself, but I’ve heard some mixed reports. So, after dining there myself, I spoke to friends who had also dined at Paste, to offer a more well-rounded review.
The first two couples had been to lunch and loved the whole experience, gushing over the Australian Slipper Lobster with Pomelo Salad and the Barramundi in Soy Broth. Another set of friends offered far less enthusiastic feedback, griping over fiddly entrees, barely-there decor and off-putting service. Another reported the food to be sensational but the service lacking in the warmth and general good manners one comes to expect from a fine dining restaurant run by chefs of such calibre.
All of that aside, I will definitely revisit Paste, but for lunch over dinner (when a booking becomes available) and possibly choosing a smaller group to ensure fuller bellies!
Review by Rachael Mannell.
Paste is open for dinner Monday-Sunday and lunch Thurs-Saturday
105 Main St, Mittagong NSW 2575
Phone: (02) 4872 2277