[Updated August 2015]
So we put off visiting for a while, but duty called and we head in for some noodles. We notice the menu is bursting with interesting Thai dishes, and there's barely any same-same Aussie Thai stuff. Rippa. We quickly got to be fans of the Tiger Cave, which sounds like the setting for some so-bad-it's-good action hero movie. More likely it's named after the mountain top Tiger Cave temple in Krabi (วัดถ้ําเสือ or Wat Tham Suea).
With Tiger Cave's wacky menu and name it would be easy (and fun) to write something snarky and piss-takey about this place, but it's actually pretty good. It's run by some very friendly Thai folks, we've noticed a trickle of Thai customers too, always a good sign. The suave Chef Wit has his own cooking style, it's sort of street style with a restauranty touch, we love trying his take on things, especially when he gets a bit cheffy. Alison's favourite dish is the stewed pork leg on rice, Mr Shawn's pick is the steamed barramundi.
BBQ pork neck on rice - $9.90. Thai BBQ meat is always good. An extra thumb up for the dipping sauce which was semisweet with a touch of sour, chili and pepper. A generous serve of pork, grilled with smoky and crispy end bits and sliced so it's easy to share.
Boat noodle soup - $9.90. A big serve of the classic Thai beef noodle soup, this one comes with bonus offal. If you don't like offal you can easily fish it out and give it to Alison.
Pink noodle soup (Yen Ta Fo) - $9.90. Another classic Thai soup, it's usually way too sweet for us but here we like it. The pink colour comes from fermented red bean curd but there isn't a strong flavour of it in the broth. There was a treasure trove of fish slices, fish balls, blood cubes and little chicken mince meatballs in the bowl as well as fat flat rice noodles.
Pad mee - $9.90. This dish was a lucky mystery punt - it's like a dry version of the pink soup above. Thin noodles with a couple of nice slices of pork and a slight sweet flavour to the noodles. It works well.
Prawn potato wrap - $6.90. A fun entree of prawnies covered with threads of crunchy fried potato. We reckon this could be a hit.
Stewed pork leg noodle soup - $9.90. Same lovely fatty pork as the prior dish but in soup, with nice springy egg noodles, mystery meat balls and and sweet meaty broth.
Pad pak vegetarian - $9.90. Stir fried mixed fresh veggies with rice and soup on the side. This is an excellent Monday anti-scurvy lunch, the veggies have a nice snap to them and they are flavoured with a simple Thai sauce, which we guess is fish sauce, sugar and maybe soy.
Steamed barramundi - $10.90. We usually don't order steamed fish in the food courts because the type of fish they use is much better suited to frying, when it is steamed you get those muddy river fish flavours. But this dish is a corker, it is steamed with enough ginger (and soy or something) to complement the flavour of the fish. The green chili dippy sauce has quite a bite to it. Rice is on the side. A supremely light and tasty lunch, highly recommended.
Chili basil fettuccine - $10.90. Like the green curry pasta, this dish was also far tastier than it should be.
Hainan chicken rice - $9.90. We love the Thai version of this traditionally Malaysian/Singaporean classic. It's not your silky soft chicken but it tastes pretty good all the same, and it's a large serve too. The sauce has a nice kick.
Whole fish in tamarind sauce - $11.90. Beautifully presented - filleted with the fillets sliced and cooked separately then stacked up on top of Mr Fish. The fish fillets looked like 'popcorn' fish, though not as crunchy as we hoped for. The best part was the main part of the fish which went crunchy and soaked up the sweet sauce. We reckon if the fillets had a bit more crunch this dish would have been magical, but dang it was close.
Part of our shtick is we never accept free meals but we did fill up our loyalty card and get a free noodle soup. We are two-faced sellouts, the U2 of the foodcourts.
[BACK AGAIN AUGUST 2015]
The stewed pork leg soup ($10.90) is a humdinger. There's a surprisingly generous amount of luscious, super tender pork in a big bowl of sweet, dark broth, livened up a little with Chinese greens and lettuce.
How beautiful is that stewed pork leg?
The winter special/pork blood jelly soup ($9.90) is as good as last time we tried it here, a hangover curing delicate light peppery broth and lots of it. There's also lots of piggy innards though no pork crackling on top this time.
Tiger Cave is in Eating World Food Court, top of the Dixon Street Mall, Chinatown.