During our last few trips to Albany, Alissa and I have been a little disappointed with the lack of really interesting premier restaurants. The cafe's on York St and the Terrace are fine and all (Gourmandise and Co is particularly impressive), however its really hard to find places that really shine as true contenders for the city's best and most interesting restaurant; even the better dining options recommended by our family in the region have lagged behind memorable dining experiences like Pepper & Salt in Denmark, and Foragers in Pemberton - strange, considering Albany is a city compared to those much smaller towns.
One strong recommendation we hadn't followed up on during our last few trips was Joop Thai - a restaurant that is apparently a firm favourite with the locals and was thus a top priority for us to investigate this time. Located on Lockyer Avenue, Joop's premises look like it had once been home to a Sizzler or one of those old Pizza Huts before they stopped doing dine in service.
Given the unassuming and dated exterior, it was a surprise to find the restaurant's interior nicely decked out, with nice wooden floor, stylish red chairs and decor appropriate for the style of cuisine. Even with Alissa and I arriving early, the place was already pretty full and I was glad that I had called ahead to make a reservation.
For our entree, Alissa and I decided to keep it fairly simple with a serve of Vegetarian Spring Rolls. Joop's Spring Rolls tasted house made and was served with a sweet plum sauce. They were well made with a flavour that was good, if a pretty standard for Spring Rolls. It's basically what you'd expect - no more and no less.
I have to admit I was a bit worried when the Green Chicken Curry arrived, as it was a bit light in terms of colour, however the dish was surprisingly well balanced and flavoursome. The sweetness, heat and sourness were all well integrated, however as big chilli eaters Alissa and I could have gone with an even hotter curry, though this is our personal preference. The only let down of the dish was the use of breast meat in the curry, as instead of the succulent juiciness of thigh meat the pieces of chicken breast ending up being a bit dry for our liking. Still, this was easily the best green curry I've had in a regional area to date, and would hold up well against all but the very best of Perth's Thai restaurants like Nunam, Galangal, Sala Thai and Red Opium.
Having not eaten noodles in over a week and with withdrawal symptoms setting in, we decided to try Joop's Pad Thai. This dish definitely satisfied my cravings, and was one of the best Pad Thais I've tried since Galangal in East Victoria Park, and every bit as good. Everything was well balanced - a nice bit of peanut crunch, noodles that were not too fall apart, a nice smoky charred flavour from the wok, prawns that were nice and juicy and a squeeze of lemon giving the dish a well balanced acidity. This was definitely the best dish of the evening and in spite of the huge size of the serve, Alissa and I finished it off - partly because noodles don't keep well for takeaway, but mainly because it we very delicious.
For our final dish, we ordered Three Flavour Duck. Our overall impression of the dish was that it was very good, but that there were a few things that could have made it even better. The dish obviously belonged to the Thai-style sweet and sour genre and was similar to a fish dish I ate at Galangal, however we felt the dish leaned a bit to heavily towards sweet, and that a more pronounced citrus and/or chilli hit would have helped balance it out - it was called Three Flavour Duck, after all. In contrast to the Green Curry however, the duck within the dish was perfect, cooked with a nice crispy duck skin and generous in serving size, with the shallots on top providing a nice crunchy hit of flavour. In spite of a less than perfect balance, it was still a very good and very enjoyable dish - just not the most finessed version of this style of dish I've had.
The Verdict: Very Good
Finding good Asian food in regional areas can be a bit of a challenge at the best of times, and given our lack of luck with dinner places in Albany it was a major relief to find Joop Thai's dishes were of a very good standard, with the Pad Thai in particular being an excellent example of that dish. While there were slight quibbles with both the other mains, the food was still very enjoyable. The staff were very friendly and the prices very reasonable for the very large serving sizes - we could have easily fed another two people with all the food that we had ordered! We are yet to try out the much lauded Maleeya Thai in Mt Barker so cannot give a direct comparison, however as far as Albany goes Joop Thai is definitely worth a visit.