Trinitas Thai has been open about three years now. It replaced, if I recall correctly, a wine bar with literary pretensions called "Prost". That heritage can be seen in a dark and rather European fit-out, now gussied up with some Thai brightness, but that's where it ends. This is our fourth visit to Trinitas over the years and may I say we could never be bothered going to "Prost". It's at the very top end of the Burke Rd shopping strip, up near the funeral home. Which is not an omen at all.
Trinitas presents its menu in three sections (in a very neat folding menu/wine-list by the way).
The "Traditional" section holds the Thai classics - spring rolls, fish cakes, hot and sour soup, green curry chicken, beef salad and stir fries.
The "Contemporary" section livens things up with dishes you might see at an upscale Thai restaurant in Thailand, but not all Longrainy. Here you will find fried fish on betel leaf with tamarind sauce, pan fried scallops with tamarind and green apple.
The "Fusion" looks to me to be some combinations of flavours and textures that the kitchen considers outside tradition and maybe reflecting a little innovation. Here we get a crispy noodle entree with chicken, shrimp, tofu and tamarind. Here we get tempura prawns served with a green apple salad and a hot and sour dipping sauce.
The dining room is packed to the gills. Every time the restaurant phone rings, it rings in my ear because we are so close to the counter. People at the next table have to scooch forward for someone from our table to get up and go to the bathroom. We shrug, open another bottle of bubbly ($5/bottle corkage and there is a wine shop right across the road)(although the wine list is short, cheap and to the point. Very well suited to the menu) and carry on talking about if you are ever too old to stop getting pimples* and where was the worst place to get them**. Noise level is high-ish but not enough for us to need to shout. The suburban aspect is reflected also in a steady flow of Camberwellians popping in to pick up their Friday night take-away.
** Inside the nose was the worst anyone would own up to
The servers run around busily taking orders, delivering dishes, clarifying allergies, topping up drinks. I don't think we got service at the table from any server more than two or three times, but they were all keen and polite and in the circumstances it didn't seem too bad to be asked too many times if we needed wine* rather than too few.
We ate :
Chicken curry puff (Fusion Section $9), a good crisp pastry surrounding minced chicken and veg with a slightly sweet and aromatic flavour.
Vegetarian spring rolls (Traditional Section), neatly presented upright in a paper lined bowl ("Look, ma, no grease spots!") with a gratuitous piece of frisee. Good, crisp, tasty, not oily. Sweet chili sauce was one-dimensionally sweet.
Betel-leaf fish (Contemporary Section $9) - small pieces of fish battered and deep fried served wrapped in a betel leaf to be muched up in a bite or two. These had good textures but lacked the mint/chili/lemongrass punch that I've become used to in these dishes at other restaurants. The dressing sauce was a sweet and savoury syrup of garlic and fresh grated coconut. I would have loved some acid in this dish, or maybe the roast chili sauce from the scallop dish instead.
Yum Scallops (Contemporary Section $13) - grilled scallops put back on their shell on top of a bed of green apple, mint, Thai basil and other herbs, served with a sweet chili sauce made from roasted chilies that gives it a warm depth. This was a very good dish; if they had made it with nice big roe-less scallops they would have been better to my tastes (albeit less local), as Ecumer does not like the roe.
R had the Triple Spice Chicken curry (without coconut milk)(Contemporary Section $22) and there was rice for the table. The triple spice was pretty much like an aromatic red curry but without the coconut milk there was a bit more strength to the flavours.
SMT had the Pad Thai Gai (and got bonus points for accurate pronunciation from the waiters. Cheeky muppet. I get lost beyond Sawatdee Kaa)(and now that I look the dish isn't even on the menu. Double cheeky!). He said it was a good Pad Thai, but that even the best Pad Thai is still a Pad Thai.
Demi-sec had the Trinitas Prawns (Fusion Menu, $21) which was a hearty number of whole prawns fried in a very light, crisp, somewhat tempura-ish batter andserved with a sour and slightly hot dipping sauce and a salad of green apples and herbs. He seemed somewhat offput by them being fried (he spent years in Japan and may be a bit Tempura-overdosed) and left one, which I tried and thought quite nice. The sauce and salad brought some acid and a little heat to the fresh crisp prawn.
Mr Nissen had the vegetarian version of the Triple Spice Curry (Contemporary Menu, price unknown). It was not surprisingly similar to the chicken version bulked up with extra veg and tofu goodness.
The Perigueuxse had the Triple Salad (Contemporary menu, $22) which was a spectacular stack of battered and fried pieces of squid, fish and prawn (moist, tender and crispy as appropriate) with accompanying strands of green apple, vegetables and herbs, with a lime juice dressing. P enjoyed it for the mix of textures and because it was substantial and filling without being heavy - great summer eats. And more baby frisee. Huh. I don't know what's with the frisee.
Ecumer's dish was the Baby Water Cress Fish (Fusion Menu, $25). A sizeable fillet of (if I heard properly) Pacific Roughy*, steamed and served in a hot and sour sauce of chili, stock, galangal, kaffir lime leaf, I'm guessing lime juice, and a secret ingredient they wouldn't divulge. And a big pile of watercress and some shredded chili. The fish was firm and well cooked, the sauce had real depth and strength to its flavours. It was a good dish apart from the guilt and I didn't get that until after.
*Yes, I know Pacific Roughy is overfished. I didn't ask what fish it was until afterwards. Let that be a lesson to us all that fish ain't just fish.
We all also had rice, and Nic had a nice Thai Beef Salad (Traditional Menu, $18) whose photo is too bad to bother you with.
None of us could consider dessert on grounds of being too full, so after adjusting the bill for a couple of people who only had one dish the rest of us paid an extremely reasonable $40 each (including corkage) and headed into the night, promising to do it again soon.
So I like Trinitas and I think it's at the upper end of the suburban Thai experience (and I include the run of the mill CBD Thai places in that), not perhaps so developed as Monsoon or Isthmus of Kra . It's a bit more than just a cheap and cheerful dinner, though at cheep and cheerful prices, and the kitchen shows it can go beyond chili and sugar and curries, bringing out some developed dishes with good balances of heat, sweet and acid.
And so we went home. The CBD from the top of Camberwell Hill is a pretty fine sight.
I love this city. Click on the photo though, the page format cuts it off.