Sunday, December 20, 2009

Thai Phooket

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Thai Phooket
207 Woodland Street

One Thai joint moves out and another takes its place. It seems a little odd, but who’s arguing if the food is good. In fact this location on Woodland Street, across from LP Field, has been a virtual revolving door for restaurants in the last few years. The last incarnation was Pad Thai Kitchen, which has since reopened on Gallatin Pike. The Woodland spot is a no man’s land in between East Nashville and Downtown, and yet convenient to both. Here’s hoping Thai Phooket can keep it bustling.

The food should help. It’s generally well executed and tasteful, showing some craftsmanship in the kitchen. The Tom Kar soup has a nice balance of delicate flavors. The chicken and mushroom retain a little texture and bite. The Phooket Salad features a warm satay sauce over crisp veggies. The tofu is firm and well flavored. Spicy Curry Noodles are fat rice noodles in a gratifying brown curry sauce. At three on the spice scale (1-5) it has a mellow background heat. The snap of green peppers and moist pork give the dish some definition.

Another visit shows summer rolls to be crunchy and fresh. Mint and cilantro jump out and a great peanut sauce on the side brings it all home. The Smiling Nashville Duck may provoke images of the movie “A Christmas Story” (it’s smiling at me…). No such worries: this is a pretty plate with slices of crispy, fried duck topped with a tangle of wontons. The meat is a little chewy. The flavor is all there though, and the sweet panang sauce gives a light accompaniment to the duck and fresh veggies.

It’s rare that we make it to desert. Thai Phooket has a couple of good options: Banana fried in wontons comes with a honey and sesame drizzle; green sticky rice is just barely sweet and a nice finish to the meal.

There are veggie friendly options for nearly every item on the menu, with tofu options a good choice.

Veggie Eater: I love Pad Thai and have spent much of my adult life in search of my perfect version. The last time we ate Thai, the meat eater dissuaded me from ordering my standard (trying to get her to actually try something different-M.E.), and I regretted that decision ever since. So, on our first visit, I forged ahead and ordered what I wanted, the Pad Thai, and regretted this decision ever since. They offer you a choice of heat from 1-5 (hottest). I told the waitress to bring it all on. I am used to the Gringo bias when dining out…I firmly believe that if you are a non Ethnic looking Caucasian, ethnic restaurant staff try to save you from yourself when ordering hot food and act as a buffer to the diner’s decision with the kitchen staff. So when I got my sweet, barely discernibly spicy noodles, I was disappointed. The noodles were at least well cooked, but the sauce was a syrupy mess. And this dish seemed to be missing eggs. Meat Eater had a really hard time getting me back for a return visit (and since I am partly Sicilian, I harbor a grudge), but I am glad he prevailed.

On the second visit I had the Masaman curry and was delighted. It was almost stew like in presentation. It was served in a large bowl full of firm tofu, chunks of potato, carrots, onions, and cashews served in a silky coconut based curry with hints of tamarind, cardamom, cinnamon. Perfectly cooked jasmine rice (I have great envy for this feat as I am not capable of making well cooked rice) rounded out the delightful dish. I also ordered this as a 5 on the heat scale, but got about a 3. In this case, the heat was respectable, but not overwhelming, and allowed the curry sauce to shine.

Meat Eater: It’s cool to have a dependable, veggie-friendly Thai spot in East Nashville. Here’s hoping the folks at Thai Phooket can overcome the history of this location and serve up curry for many years to come. We paid $33 with tax and tip for two entrees and an appetizer on one visit and $32 with tax and tip for two entrees, a salad and appetizer for another.
Thai Phooket on Urbanspoon


Morgan Levy said...

I just went there for the first time and my tofu pad thai was AMAZING. They may have (erroneously) assumed that since you wanted a vegetarian meal, you didn't want egg - I was asked if I wanted egg when I ordered the tofu, and I thought it was impressive that they paid enough attention to check for vegan eaters.

I don't like my pad thai very spicy so I asked for mild spice and got exactly that. But the sauce wasn't syrupy, it was actually light on the sauce if anything. It was some of the best pad thai I've ever had.

They also brought us a free green sticky rice after our meal.

Anyway, it seems they may have a problem with consistency if anything. I hope that gets straightened out, because if I go back and can't get another identical delicious pad thai, I'm going to be devastated!

Lannae said...

Veggie Eater, I was actually grossed out by the pad thai and fresh spring rolls from the recent former restaurant in there, that I vowed not to go back. I am disappointed that this place has just as bad pad thai. It does not sound like a place I am going to go. I hate the corn syrupy mess on mushy over cooked rice noodles that are mushed together. Does anyone really like the corn syrupy mess on mushy rice noodles? There has to be a lot of people that expect the corn syrupy sweet and sour sauce over mushy noodles, or else there wouldn't be so many restaurant serving the pad thai this way.

Maybe, you might want to try the pad thai at Smiling Elephant. It is not sugary, no tamerind, it is savory with tofu, veggies including fresh beans sprouts and other juliann veggies, and egg. The spicy sauce is on the side, and you add it yourself. There is no corn syrup "gravy" on Smiling Elephant's pad Thai. You must ask Sam to not add shrimp to the "veggie" version, if you don't eat shrimp.

Given the state of affairs of pad thai in the Nashville area (mostly orang colored corn syrupy messes) Sam at Smiling Elephant may be right to claim he has the best pad thai restaurant.

Jenn said...

I had the red curry and fried bananas for dessert and both were excellent. The staff is also very friendly and attentive.

rocky said...

I just ate there for the third time. And, I have to say, as an avid Pad Thai enthusiast. I think it is the best Pad Thai in Nashville! The flavors are terrific, the service is friendly. What more can you want from a restaurant.
simply delicious!

mIKES said...

It seems that this place has grown some legs. On a recent Thursday lunch visit i was expecting the usual quiet little trailer by the stadium. Instead of 3 tables of diners, there were only 3 tables available. Packed~! And the service was still commendable. I love the one server who refers to the chef as "my aunt". She is a sweetheart.

Clint said...

They opened up a second location in Rivergate next to Pizza Hut across from Toys R Us. Finally! Thai in the G'ville/H'ville area. Great curry dishes and I thought the Pad Thai was very good. The heat, however, is mild. A 5 is more like a 3. Other than that, I love this place (I may be a little desperate for Thai thought).