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!!

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