Saturday, December 29, 2012

Phuket Thai Cuisine

We were in Webster, and though it was not even 4 pm, all of our days already felt long.  As they say, "The weather outside was frightful," and I hadn't had a chance to eat lunch.  We were cold, hungry, needed a break--and were in Webster, a place we almost never go.  So, if it weren't for today's convergence of events (including the fact that the first restaurant we picked was closed), we might never have eaten at Phuket Thai Cuisine--and that would have been a shame.

Given the early hour, we weren't at all surprised that we were the only diners at Phuket.  Walking in, we had no real preconceived notions, as we chose it simply by driving by.  Outside, Phuket looked to us like a remodeled house, but inside, it is warm and inviting with an upscale, urban look: glossy wood floors, golden walls, sophisticated Asian wall art, table linens and full place settings.  We picked a table by the window to watch the snow fall, and my son quickly noticed that the TV in the bar was showing, of all things, The Dark Knight Rises. Voila, he was in love with the place!  (Note to any restaurant we frequent: that's half the battle right there.)

We quickly ordered appetizers:  steak and chicken satay, and corn cakes.  The table uniformly preferred the chicken to the steak (which tasted a bit buttery), and everyone--including the children to their surprise--loved the crispy corn cakes.  They came with a delicious sweet, vinegary dipping sauce that had a little kick of heat to it and added the perfect tang to the corn.  Things were looking up!

My daughter and I both ordered soup starters.  I got my favorite, Tom Yum, with veggies.  She tried something new, Geow Nam.  Mine was delicious--brightly flavored broth with a biting heat that floated perfectly on top of the lemongrass.  It was filled with huge chunks of vegetables and tofu.  Hers had a lightly flavored broth filled with massive pork dumplings and lots of crunchy veggies.  Seriously, it had an appetizer's worth of dumplings in it!  Both soups served to warm the whole table as they were big enough to share--and both were obviously freshly made.  Extra points again.

We ordered three entrees for the four of us:  Pad Phu Kha-Na with Chicken (but with soy-based sauce rather than oyster-sauce--an easily received substitution), Curry Angel Hair Noodle with Pork, and Gang Masamam Curry with Chicken.  My son LOVED the Pad Phu--scooping out all the chicken and about half the broccoli.  The soy-based sauce was light and flavorful, adding to the taste of the perfectly steamed al dente veggies but not overpowering them.  I ate the remainder of the broccoli and all the mushrooms, and my husband took on the lovely carrots--each of which was cut in a beautiful sunburst and cooked just right.  My daughter and I fell in love with the Curry Angel Hair.  The thin noodles were bursting with yellow curry goodness--sweet, warming heat balanced with green onion shoots and crispy bean shoots, mellowed red peppers, and the sunburst carrots.  And, the pork in this dish was delicious, too!  This was the kind of curry that stains your plate and your lips a glorious golden and is the ideal meal on a snowy night.  Yum!!  I have to confess that at this point in the holiday season, I'm potatoes-out, so I ate only a bit of the Masamam chicken.  The sauce was a bright, tamarind-scented red curry, and the chicken moist and tender.  The potatoes were cutely scored so they looked like little loaves of bread floating in the red sea, and my husband loved it.

I would not have thought to find a great Thai restaurant in Webster and couldn't have been happier to stumble upon it today.  I'm not from Thailand (I know, big reveal), but my guess is that Phuket's menu runs closer to authentic Thai than the dishes at most places: a deep palate of hot, tangy, sweet, bright flavors, lots of great fresh veggies, and just enough protein.  No spice overwhelmed a dish no sauce made you feel like a weighted-down food zombie.  Lovely balance from interior to dish.  Yay, Phuket!!

Friday, December 21, 2012


Twas the Friday before Christmas, and all through the house, we were HUNGRY!  Where to go? We decided to head toward Penfield, which we really rarely do, to go to Itacate.  I first read about the owners of Itacate in an article earlier this year about their Mexican restaurant in the back of a gas station in Chili.  Always meant to get there but never did.  Then, I heard they opened a second place in Penfield; this one had an actual dining room.  We were cold, wet, tired from oh so much life this week, so off we went.

When we arrived, well after 6 pm, there were only 2 other cars in the lot--not a good sign.  But, there is that saying about judging books by their covers, isn't there? So, we pushed on.

Turns out we were the first diners that night.  And, then within 15 minutes of our sitting down, the whole place was full!  Must have been us :)

We started with chips, salsas and guacamole.  Big raves for the guac from the family (I am not a fan of avocados).  In fact, we got 3 refills!  The chips were light, crisp and salty.  Red salsa and green salsa were both good and not overly spicy/hot; they are thin, though--be warned.  We also asked for and got the homemade roasted habanero sauce, which did bring the heat!

It was a rainy/sleety/snowy night, so soups all around as starters.  My daughter got the Arroz Con Pollo, which she proclaimed as delicious!  My husband got the Sopa de Tortilla, with lots of queso fresco and avocado and more raves!  But, I think my soup won.  I defaulted to the last soup left unordered on the menu: Frijoles Charros.  Rich, smoky beans in a deeply flavored, thick broth that combined a good heat with bacony awesomeness.  I would eat this by the bucketful.  So very yummy!!

For entrees, my daughter ordered a chicken taco, which she didn't like and my husband did.  She, instead, snacked on some of my plentiful Carnitas de Puerco.  The pork in this dish was mildly seasoned and wonderfully crisped in places.  I skipped the tortillas and just ate the pork topped with some green salsa and limed onions and ate it with the chips and some beans.  My son devoured his chicken burrito in about 4 minutes flat, and then also ate some carnitas.  My husband and I swapped dishes--initially accidentally and then on purpose.  So, he took my Asado de Puerco.  The pork in this dish was shredded, not chunked, and served in a richly flavored red sauce with a nice sized portion of rice and beans.  Safe to say, nothing, not-a-thing, was left on our table.  Not a drop of salsa, not a crumb of a chip.

Plus, the service was fantastic: friendly, welcoming, funny, generous.  And, the chef came out and chatted with everyone in the room for a while.  Love it!

Look out 2013 ... we've found our favorite Mexican place, and it's only about 10 minutes from the house!