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  • Liane Morris

Dishes Designed to Delight at Oishii


Oishii Japanese Thai Restaurant, located in the Roche Estate complex on Broke Road in Pokolbin, is the only Asian restaurant in a winery in the Hunter Valley and, quite possibly, Australia. One of the only restaurants in the area open for lunch and dinner seven days a week, it is popular with locals and visitors and has been a favourite of Hunter Valley diners since 2002.

 

The story begins when Bo Lorchaiwet migrated to Australia from Thailand in 1992 and opened a restaurant on Darby Street in Newcastle in 1994. One year later, a 14-year-old Patrick Boonsong arrived to help his mum run her restaurant. The family ran restaurants in several locations, including Newcastle, Hamilton, Nelson Bay, Terrigal, and Swansea. Patrick’s uncle was a big fan of Japanese cuisine and encouraged the family to open Japanese restaurants as well as their Thai restaurants.


“Most of the chefs at Japanese restaurants tend to be Thai,” said Patrick.


“In Thailand, there is a great diversity of cuisine, and our chefs learn a broad range of styles as a result. We think that Thai chefs make better Japanese food! Not so bland.”


It was Lisa McGuigan who had the great idea to offer cellar door visitors something a little different in the Hunter Valley. A regular customer at the Newcastle restaurant run by Patrick and his mum, she invited the family to open Oishii in what was then the Tempus Two Winery.


“When we first opened in 2002, it was on a dirt road and very dusty. We stayed open seven days per week even back then. Often there were only two or three tables at night, and we wondered if we had done the right thing. Within two years, we knew it was going to be successful.”


The space overlooks the architecturally designed amphitheatre and vines at Roche Estate. It’s conveniently located, relaxed and offers an affordable dining alternative with dishes designed to please every palate. The menu has changed very little since the restaurant opened, with current chef Jantee Dangsopa having been at the helm of the kitchen since 2008.


Oishii is well known for its signature dishes, including Teppan Yaki Beef, Panang Duck Curry, Gyoza, Massaman Beef Curry and the freshly made vegetarian Spring Rolls, which are nothing like the mass-produced ones usually served at most Asian restaurants. The dishes are perfect for sharing and ideal for families or groups of friends. The interiors are minimalist, with a Thai-themed dining room, but there’s also the option of dining outside on the terrace overlooking the vines – ideal in the winter sunshine.



According to Patrick, 30% of his customers identify as being gluten intolerant or coeliac.


“More and more people are demanding gluten-free, and we’ve worked hard to produce a menu that delivers maximum flavour without gluten. A lot of the sauces that are used in Asian cooking contain gluten. We have had to create our own special sauces in-house to be able to give people what they need. Most of our signature dishes are gluten-free.


Patrick puts Oishii’s success down to consistency – both in flavour and service. Open from 11.30am and closing at 9.30pm every day, the restaurant only briefly closes between lunch and dinner, meaning that if time slipped away from you at a cellar door, chances are you can still get lunch at Oishii.


“When everyone else is closed, we are open. The taxi drivers know this, the locals know this, and when visitors are surprised that many of the restaurants may be closed, especially early in the week, they can come to us, and we will serve them up a delicious Thai or Japanese meal. We have two teams that work here and take it in turns to ensure we have that guaranteed seven-days-a-week opening.”


Oishii offers a real alternative for dining in the Hunter Valley and is an absolute must-do dining experience. For more information and menus, visit www.oishii.com.au, or to make a booking, phone 4998 7051.

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