The days of dumbed-down, cornstarch-thickened Asian food made for the palates of Australians are numbered with the new wave of fusion cuisine hitting the Adelaide food scene.
Asian flavours and restaurant decors are becoming more modern, fun and authentic – and Gondola Gondola, which opened seven weeks ago in the city’s west end, is a good example of the trend.
Starting a business in early winter wasn’t ideal, says owner Annie Liang, who opened the small eatery and sake bar with her partner Tuoi Tran. However, the support of friends, family and customers has helped the couple through the first few months in their first food business together.
They also have the benefit of being in a prime location The corner of Peel and Hindley streets is now hot property, thanks to the influx of small bars in the surrounding area; the corner site Gondola Gondola occupies is next door to the government-funded Hub Adelaide and just down the street from Clever Little Tailor.
Matiya Marovich, of Sans-Arc studio, has designed the interior of Gondola Gondola, taking inspiration from street food strips across Asia. The rustic wooden sake bar and open kitchen feel like market stalls, and backlit signs transport diners to Asia for an hour or two.
It’s cosy and dimly lit in the main dining area, and there is a café-style space lit by afternoon sun in the front near the street.
The menu has been created by a team of Thai and Vietnamese chefs, who credit their mothers for recipes such as the bahn xeo and hot and sour soup.
Tran’s family farm in Virginia provides seasonal fresh produce and also inspiration for the restaurant; like many other restaurateurs in South Australia, he is driven to serve up homey comfort food from his cultural background.
Chef Seksan Suntharaphai, who comes from southern Thailand, has the reins in the kitchen after 20 years cooking at various restaurants in Australia and Thailand.
Favourite dishes: GG’s bún cha – crispy juicy pork (cha) with white rice noodles (bun), served with mint, shallots and purple salad greens. The pork is excellent – fatty with super-crisp edges – and the slices are not too thick. The dressing on the noodles is fresh and enhances the pork with its light chilli and lime flavour. For $22, it is a lot of pork for one main and would be ideal to share.
Sweetcorn and pork dumplings – this was a special on the day we visited, with a plate of four dumplings with corn and pork mince filling costing just $9. The soy and chilli sauce has just the right amount of chilli and is appropriately spicy, adding a freshness to the dumplings. The whole dish has good flavours, expertly balanced.
Other dishes: The menu includes a range of “smaller” dishes, such as seared scallops, daughter-in-law egg and coconut milk mussels, and a longer list of “bigger” dishes, including salmon in hot and sour soup, whole barramundi de-boned and char-grilled in betel leaf, and Master Master – slow-cooked beef ribs in a master stock of cinnamon, anise star and lemongrass.
Something sweet / to drink: There are just a couple of sweet options (a jackfruit panna cotta with sago pudding and vanilla ice-cream, and a coconut crème brulee with coconut ice-cream) but Gondola Gondola does offer an extensive drinks list.
Aficionados can chose from 16 different Asian whiskies, plus a selection of sake and umeshu (Japanese liqueur). Gondola Gondola also serves “fancy cocktails” incorporating ingredients such as Vietnamese coffee, Yuzu liqueur, sake-infused vodka and Yamazaki whiskey.
Monday to Thursday: 12-2.30pm; dinner, 5-10pm.
Bar open Monday to Thursday until midnight; Friday and Saturday until 2am.
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