A Thai-tanic arrival – Jumbo makes a sizeable splash in Brisbane City’s dining scene
Brisbane is currently in the midst of a Thai renaissance. The cuisine has long been popular as a neighbourhood takeout staple, but now the fare is becoming the focal point of an upscale dining revolution. Jumbo is the newest entrant vying for our tastebuds – a restaurant that is set to deliver a harmonious melding of culture and cuisine. Utilising the freshest locally sourced produce, sauces and curry pastes made in house, and fare served in a sense-enlivening restaurant setting, Jumbo is raising the standard of Thai food available in Brisbane. The restaurant officially opens to the public on Friday July 26, but we’ve got the first glimpse right here.
If you were to seek advice on where to find (and how to judge) top-quality Thai cuisine, Andrew and Wasana Park are amply qualified to help. The duo are owners of several Siam Sunset restaurants scattered across Brisbane’s western suburbs, not to mention that Andrew is also Thailand’s Honorary Consul-General in Brisbane. For the past few years, the couple has thrown around the idea of putting their wealth of knowledge towards a new culinary concept – one that involved moving away from casual neighbourhood dining to explore the potential of Thai cuisine presented through a more ambitious restaurant offering. Andrew and Wasana are on the cusp of realising that vision with Jumbo, a new 140-seat restaurant situated on level one of the Embassy Chambers on Elizabeth Street. The restaurant, which is opening on Friday July 26, takes some inspirational cues from interstate restaurants such as Sailors Thai, Long Chim, Chin Chin and Longrain – that is to say Jumbo looks to frame Thai cuisine in a more polished way while still paying tribute to its lively and informal origins.
Andrew and Wasana’s vision of a restaurant that truly represented Thailand’s authentic spirit required a meticulous multi-sensory approach and precise attention to detail – not just as far as the food was concerned, but also the fit-out. Wit Chongwattananukul – a Chicago and New York-trained interiors specialist currently working for Open Air Studio in Bangkok – was tasked with transforming the space (formerly home to a backpacker’s hostel). The brief involved utilising as many of the venue’s stunning original features as possible, while simultaneously implementing eye-catching interpretation of Thailand’s diverse nature that was refined but still approachable. The result is a multi-faceted venue that boasts various nooks and vibes suitable for all comers – informal seating at the bar and kitchen benches for a casual and social experience, window seating with views overlooking the street below and regular seating in the main dining room for those seeking a traditional experience. Wit has crafted an aesthetic that subtly melds Thailand’s vibrant craftsmanship, with notable features including the rattan-wrapped hallway joining the kitchen to the main dining room, French doors to the private dining space boasting traditional embroidered inlays, hand-made ceramic tiles decorating the kitchen and the bar counters (sourced from Lampang in northern Thailand), furniture made using Jim Thompson fabrics and gorgeous hand-painted tiled table tops. Jumbo’s walls are also adorned with various Thai artworks commissioned specifically for the venue or plucked from Andrew and Wasana’s own collection. An exposed brick wall features a mural from Thai artist Thirawut Bunyasakseri, while other walls showcase work from Bangkok-based artist Virat Rungpayak. A large Rungpayak painting hanging in the main dining room clues diners in to the main inspiration behind Jumbo’s curious naming – the image depicts a larger-than-life man (who the couple affectionately refer to as Jumbo) covered in Buddhist ‘Sak Yant’ tattoos enjoying a traditional Thai feast with his family.
The food and drink
Jumbo’s culinary offering is being executed by an all-star team of Thai talent, led by Wilawan Dowweingkan (ex-Sailors Thai Sydney, Bangkok’s Dusit Thani Hotel) and Chatchai Taewpia (ex-Osha Restaurant). Taya Meeikaew (Taya Cooking School, My Thai Restaurant) has also been recruited as a menu consultant, who is assiduously tweaking Jumbo’s offering to ensure the restaurant’s interpretations of even the most ubiquitous Thai dishes are elevated a notch or two. Andrew and Wasana aim to complement and challenge the maturing palates of Brisbane’s dining crowd, and are unafraid to push the boundaries by showcasing the most authentic tastes at their disposal. Jumbo’s menu as a whole favours locally sourced proteins, including sustainable seafood, organic free-range poultry and premium Queensland beef. Diners are encouraged to start small with the likes of grilled-in-the-shell Queensland scallops, locally grown betel leaf parcels of smoked trout and salted coconut caramel sauce, crispy house-made rice-flour tacos filled with pulled pork and hand-shredded coconut, and the signature steamed butterfly pea flower dumplings with sand crab. Like the feast depicted in the Jumbo painting, sharing is encouraged. Larger plates include shredded banana blossom topped with coconut-milk poached organic chicken and local banana prawns, char-grilled Tasmanian Cape Grim striploin marinated in seasoned herb paste, crispy goldband snapper with locally grown Thai herbs, green curry of Angus beef cheek and grilled Thai eggplant, and southern yellow Thai curry with betel leaf and Western Australian sand-crab chunks. Pruetsamon Chaithongkong (formerly of LONgTIME) is overseeing front-of-house operations, while local wine expert David Bone has helped put together a list of more than 75 varietals from the restaurant’s on-site cellar, favouring white wines that perfectly balance the depth of flavours showcased on the food menu. Jumbo’s bar also serves Thai-inspired cocktails made from a plethora of interesting ingredients and, for the first time outside of Thailand, Chao Siam Pale Ale is available on tap.
Jumbo will officially open to the public for lunch and dinner on Friday July 26. For operating hours and contact details, head to the Stumble Guide.
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