Satay Hut Review
South Bank is over-crowded with places to eat and drink. You can’t walk 20 metres without going past a fast food place, café or restaurant. It’s a great location to eat out as it’s central without being in the CBD, and depending on your choice of eatery you can get a good view of the city and river. But it frustrates me than that with so many places to choose from I always seem to leave disappointed and underwhelmed by whatever I’ve been served for the evening. It’s as if restaurants on South Bank and in particular Little Stanley Street feel as though they can depend on walk-ins and tourists to keep the cash coming in. I’m sorry to say that my list of places to avoid is much longer than my list of places worth returning too.
But there is hope.
The Satay Hut on Little Stanley Street is a beacon that bucks the trend of mediocrity. It’s a get-out-of-jail-free card for avoiding the over-priced crap that seems to come at you from every angle and an excellent venue for a casual and relaxed evening with some excellent South-East Asian cuisine.
The menu is extensive. Nigh on 100 dishes, with lots of pictures to boot. The food is predominantly Malay and Thai but there are also a couple of dishes with Chinese influence. Soups, noodles, stir fries and curries all make an appearance, and there is plenty of variety across the styles.
We kicked off the evening with a round of beers ($6, cascade premium), satay beef sticks with rice cakes ($9.90), Thai fish cakes ($6.90) and a somtom green papaya salad ($12.90). I’ve had the satay sticks before and was expecting good things but unfortunately I found the beef to be particularly chewy on this occasion. The Thai fish cakes were quite spicy and smelt great but again didn’t excite as they seemed a bit soft and spongy in texture. However, the somtom green papaya salad was excellent, and the combination of spice and crunchy texture just made you want to eat more. It’s a perfect appetizer and we probably should have ordered another. We also selected fried tofu (Malaysian style, $7.90) which when served looks similar to four slices of golden toast and was very enjoyable – soft and almost creamy in the middle, with a fried crispy exterior.
As the menu is so extensive I’d highly recommend sharing dishes as it allows you to get a bit adventurous with a couple of choices as well as order some favourites. I think it tends to keep everyone happy and make the evening more interesting. We settled on duck salad ($20.90), green chicken curry with steamed rice ($18.90), Malaysian hokkien mee ($16.90) and mee goreng ($16.90).
The problem with the Satay Hut is that there are so many things that sound good that I could have ordered two or three meals worth of food. Next time I’ll be sure to try the satay steamed noodles with tofu and cashews ($16.90), the jungle curry ($18.90), or the coconut seafood bake ($29.90), all of which looked particularly good.
The mee goreng was excellent and perhaps the stand out of what we ordered. The hokkien noodles were soft and delicious and the dish was packed with different meats including chicken, beef, eggs, prawns and squid. It was full of flavour and I think we would have still been happy if we’d ordered four of this dish on its own.
The duck salad was interesting and also very good. Normally I’m reluctant to order duck at an Asian restaurant as it’s frequently served quite oily and fatty, but this was neither. The lime and chilli in the dish gave it a little kick and the whole dish tasted very fresh.
The only disappointment for the night was the Malaysian hokkien mee which had too much sauce and the noodles didn’t seem to be cooked correctly – they were quite firm and very unlike the texture of those in the mee goreng. We couldn’t work out if it was one of those instances of “that’s how it’s supposed to be” or if it was just cooked incorrectly. The menu didn’t indicate that there was any difference in noodles between the two dishes.
Dining at the Satay Hut is predominantly alfresco, but there are a couple of tables indoors if the wilderness of the South Bank sidewalk is too much for you. Most of the alfresco area is protected by glass screens to guard against the elements and dining would be quite comfortable even in winter. The tables and chairs are simple and have obviously been chosen with ‘ease of cleaning’ in mind. It’s casual, informal and ideal for relaxed evening when you’re not out to impress.
Our service for the evening was good but not great – there was a mix up with a type of beer and the waitress couldn’t help with making a selection from the wine list, but our meals arrived promptly and the staff seemed friendly without being intrusive. We were happy with our own company and not being disturbed every five minutes with “would you like another beer” was a good thing.
Ultimately the Satay Hut is a restaurant that must be judged as a whole rather than on the sum of its parts. You can get better Malay / Thai food elsewhere and you can find more attentive and informed service. You can also get better décor elsewhere and your meal won’t be the cheapest you’ve ever had. But when taken as a whole and in the context of the South Bank food precinct, the Satay Hut is a great place to have a night out, and is a card worth keeping up your sleeve.
Bar and restaurant
Visited on Sunday, 11 January 2009