When you go anywhere to dine you've been before your view is always coloured by the last experience. That's why we return to favourite haunts with spectacular memories of family, friends, food and laughter.
I returned to a restaurant this month I honestly have not been to for some 12-15 years. The last time I visited Flames Restaurant in Onerahi, it was a gregarious celebration with a LOT of beer. Not a classy evening - it was something raucous.
This visit left me wondering when the place had changed so dramatically. It was a last-minute decision to dine out so we called to make a reservation and 'review the food'. Arriving on a hot afternoon, we were seated immediately and were thrilled with the option of dining on the patio under the shade sail with the breeze gently coming through.
The restaurant was gearing up for a busy evening when I ordered a Pinot Gris. The menu was good - a bit of everything with inspiration from all corners of the globe, vegetarian, gluten or dairy-free options available as well. I spied the Louisiana Prawn, Jason couldn't resist Mexicana Mussels as our starters and the teens ordered garlic bread and chunky fries.
Ratatoulle was on the mains menu so there was much discussion about this; If you have young teens, it's likely they grew up watching Ratatoulle, the movie from 2007 on a DVD. Mine did and the DVD had a segment at the end with a famous chef who demonstrates the making of this simple but revered dish.
I asked about the Kai Pad Mit and was told it was excellent so happily ordered, having found out my chef was a Korean Kiwi. When the starters arrived, I was blown away by my prawns. They were presented beautifully and the flavours were sensational. I wished there were 12 of them, they were so divine. A little sauce, not too overwhelming on a thin morsel of bread with the prawn as its crown.
The Mexicana Mussels arrived looking lush for Jason. Teens being teens, there's not much to be said for garlic bread and fries: "Yes, they're good." The mains came out and we oooh-ed and aaaahhh-ed at the Ratatouille. It's a meatless dish, colourful, comforting and hearty. This dish exceeded our expectations. It was served with 'polenta'.
We will be back for this again when the weather cools. My Kai Pad Mit is a Thai-styled stir-fried chicken and was perfectly balanced. That sounds funny but Thai cooking is all about timing. When you add the ingredients it has to be at the right time. I also discovered our chef 'In Ae' was locally trained at Northtec so her skills were a win-win at our table.