Sunday, June 26, 2011

Thai Phooket - Nashville

Back in Nashville and I was on the hunt for something spicy. I had just spent a weekend in Indy for the 500, an event that seemed to be hundreds of miles from the nearest grain of rice so Asian was a must. Fortunately, whenever I visit a city, I almost instinctively search for the best Asian dining options. Be it sushi, dim sum, Sichuan hot pot, bulgogi, or any of the myriad other Asian dining options, I want to give it a shot. It was that search that brought me to Thai Phooket

I’ll spare you the architectural details as I was more concerned with the food, particularly the prik nam pla.
I took a few requests before I got a container of Thai Phooket’s prik nam pla.

At its most basic prik nam pla is sliced chilies and fish sauce. Some people may add lime juice(technically that is prik nam pla manao), garlic, and sometimes sugar, but I prefer my Thai ketchup on the simple side. Thai Phooket may have added a little lime for good measure, but this prik nam pla was complete pungent simplicity.

Crispy tofu may seem like the epitome of a banal dish, but I had high hopes for this appetizer.

Fried to a crisp, these wedges of near molten tofu were well complimented by the small bowl of sweet chili sauce. As good as the tofu was with the chili sauce, it was dynamite when combined with prik nam pla.

You’ve seen it before; almost every Thai restaurant has it in some form or another. It’s the classic, pick your protein and then pick your color curry. While Thai Phooket does have the classic selection of red and green curries, they also feature Massamun, a lightly yellow curry, panang curry, huang ray curry, and sassy curry, a pineapple curry. Call me clich├ęd but I ordered a classic pork red curry, but I asked for, nay, demanded the full five chili “Native Thai” level of heat.

I can’t remember ever seeing this variety of vegetables in a curry before. Bamboo shoots, mushrooms, broccoli, carrots, bell peppers, those are all old hat, but this is the first time I’ve seen green beans and zucchini in a bowl of Thai curry.

The first few bites were a bit of a letdown. I was hoping for a fire breathing level of heat, but this classic balance of hot, sour, sweet, and salty was just as satisfying. There was a bit of residual heat that built up with each bite, eventually covering the whole of my mouth, but nothing too alarming.

With this red curry, Thai Phooket presents a well rounded, slightly earthy, and slightly spicy dish. It’s not one for the record books, but a taste of the familiar and oh so satisfying.

Even though my order of red curry came with a bowl of white rice, an order of the spicy fried rice or drunken fried rice was on the way.
Stir-frying rice with chili paste seems almost counter intuitive. I imagined everything would arrive as a sticky mess, and it did.

Decked out in “Native Thai” heat level, this plate of rice was moist, thick and brimming with chili sauce, but it a surprisingly approachable way. There wasn’t an overpowering heat to this dish, just enough spiciness to remind you why this dish is called drunken fried rice.

Joining this duet of rice and chili paste is an assortment of bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, basil leaves, and tomatoes, not to mention a healthy amount of sliced pork. This ingredient may not have combined to deliver the spice laden knockout punch that I was hoping for, but they did make for a fine plate of spicy rice.

After a nearly a week without any form of Asian cuisine, I would have been satisfied to saddle up to the nearest P.F. Chang’s. Thankfully, I was able to try Thai Phooket instead. While their local specialties and unique items went untouched, I was genuinely pleased with their take on of a few of my Thai favorites. I don’t know if I’ll ever replicate the throat closing Thai heat that I experienced in Edinburgh, but Thai Phooket gave a standup performance that more than warrants a meal or two.

Thai Phooket Address & Information

207 Woodland, Nashville, TN 37213 // 615.248.7933

Thai Phooket on Urbanspoon

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