Happy New Year

December 31, 2009

To a good 2010 to all.  The fried misses the pickled.

Thai Phooket
207 Woodland
Nashville, TN 37213
615.248.7933

The skinny on Thai Phooket:  Wide-ranging, ambitious menu, compared to Nashville’s other Thai restaurants.  But it can be inconsistent with food quality and prep.  Hit or miss on certain dishes, and uncomfortable in the winter.  Our second visit was quite inconsistent with our initial visit [see below for both reviews].

Architecturally, Thai Phooket is an American  roadhouse.  Not necessarily outside of the city, but in no man’s land across from LP Field.  Sitting inside, one looks out at the flood lights and desolate, vast parking lots.

There are some nice touches that make the interior more comfortable, like fresh flowers (hat tip to G) and the accommodating service.  (The soft-rock radio station is too kitschy.)  The food, however, is what stands out the most, and its location (Woodland and 2nd) is a convenient take-out spot for East Nashvillians who commute across the Cumberland.

They offer what every other boring Thai restaurant in Nashville offers:  the pick-your-curry-pick-your-meat dish.  However, there’s much more to the menu–all of which is prepared with a high degree of precision and meticulousness.  (Every dish even comes with a fancy garnish.)

They have a variety of Asian beers, including my favorite SE Asian beer, Tiger.  Our table first ordered the chicken satay, and we could taste the curry and coconut milk marinade.  Then we had a salad with cross-hatched calamari mixed with red and green onion, shreds of pickled purple cabbage and carrot, chopped cilantro, lime juice, and chili-ed, sweetened fish sauce.  Quite good. We also ordered two portions of the ban khuan, which is made much like a crepe, but with rice flour, and then rolled.  This restaurant’s version has ground chicken, black mushrooms, and scallions.  But the rolls were too mealy and dry.

For the main course, we ordered green curry with pork and the lard nar.  But the winner was the whole tilapia, flash fried and then steamed with ginger and served in a rich sauce that included pickled limes.  (Warning: whole fish = the presence of bones.) The fish was $12.99/lb (ours came out to be $14).  Our entire meal, including two rounds of beer, cost $80.  We ordered for three people, but this was too much food, as one of us had to go out to the car and rest, horizontally.

We’re excited to return and try some other dishes like the “smiling duck” and “smiling Tennessee.”

Their website is http://www.thaiphookettn.com, but it isn’t working. 615-248-7933.

Second visit:

We had a friend in town, and figured we’d have an easy, delicious meal at Thai Phooket, which we were more than enthusiastic about our first time there. Our second visit, however, was quite disappointing.  Right when we sat down, the out-of-place roadhouse felt too cold. The whole place was a walk-in cooler, even when the waiter brought out a heater for our table.  He recommended some apps, and the only interesting one was a shrimp on a stick, wrapped with egg noodles–fried to a crisp.  The sweet-chili sauce, though, tasted generic.

For entrees, we let the waiter recommend some dishes.  Again, we had the whole tilapia, flash fried and then steamed with ginger and served in a rich sauce .  This time, however, the tilapia was not fresh.  We also had a duck dish that was supposed to be steamed–as described on the menu and reaffirmed by the waiter.  But when it came it, the duck had been chopped and fried.  Not what we expected, and fried to the point of diminishing any quality of the duck.  We also had skewered breasts, which were grilled and topped with a sauce.  The dish was fine.  But none of the dishes stood on their own.  They seemed like redundant meat dishes with slightly different types of sauce and the same garnishes.

Thai Phooket on Urbanspoon

More Food in NYC

December 31, 2009

Some friends had suggested we meet at Ping’s restaurant at 22 Mott St.  The place is a favorite among locals.  It was a split level restaurant, and we were seated upstairs, at a table near the  front steps.  Every time the front door opened, a gust of wind would scurry in and nip at our ankles.  Luckily the day’s cruel elements were quickly forgotten with sips of hot tea and a plethora of well prepared dishes: shiu mai, hao cao, and a hybrid of these two aforementioned classics. We appreciated the innovation but not the taste. There were also chicken feet, tripe, pastries, rice rolls, spare ribs, and repeats of some dishes.  This was not your bustling, clanking dim sum affair. The laid-back atmosphere suggested a dining experience where both restaurant folks and patrons knew how dim sum should be served up.

Afterward, we headed up to the Met, where a line stretched up a block, in the blistering cold.  There was plenty of tension inside the museum. Visitors (including us) went rabid when faced with long lines and lack of tables at the cafes.

For an early dinner we headed to the Isle of Capri.  This was old-school Italian.  The decor, the heavy wood trim, and  the red paint were well-aged, and the wooden floors were well-worn.  Display cases of expensive cognacs had unfinished bottles that was once opened for mobsters–or at least that’s the feeling you get.  The entire staff, including those who did not look Italian, had an Italian accent.  There were diners in tinted glasses, camel cashmere jackets, hunched over, loud, and particular about the preparation of their Nova Scotia lobster on top of their spaghetti with the red sauce, “just on top and not mixed in.”  Our main courses, however, were a reversal of what one would expect from a traditional lobster-and-pasta establishment.  The pasta dishes were amazing–from the rigatoni in pink sauce to the cheese tortellini.  However, the osso busco and grilled rack of lamb lacked imagination and taste.  The kitchen, however, did provide a cocktail fork for the osso buco’s marrow.  Desserts were heavily chocolate, and a round of raspberry and lemon liqueurs were on the house.  It was a great setting for a memorable gathering with family.

Late-Night Italian

December 29, 2009

We took the 7 p.m. train from Philly to NYC.  After dropping off our bags, we had an errand to run in the Village.  Blistering hunger set in, and we needed dinner.  Our first option was closed for health violations–not a good sign, and our other choices were closing when we arrived.  We stumbled upon Bleeker’s Trattoria Pesce Pasta, which specializes in northern Italian cuisine.  The straw Chianti bottles and iced fish in the windows seemed a bit kitschy.  But the food was quite different.  We split a Caesar salad that had just the right hint of anchovy flavoring to punctuate the greens, but not overpower them.  Ahs ordered the spaghetti and meatballs–a classic that only good restaurant really do well.  Ahs thought the meatballs were too mealy, though I liked their texture and taste.  I got the suggested pasta special of the day, fettuccine mare monte, a combination of pasta, portobello mushrooms, and shrimp in pink sauce.  The delicate sauce brought out the smoky taste and aroma of the mushrooms, and the shrimp, fresh and not-overcooked, complimented the dish well.  We were the last diners, and the staff (who were not speaking Italian, but perhaps Ukranian) patiently waited for us, while remaining attentive.  Good random find.  We needed such a meal to battle the cold and the subway ride home.

Now: thinking about lunch options

Lunch in Philly

December 27, 2009

When my brother lived in Princeton, he would often go to Philly on the weekends to eat at a Vietnamese restaurant called

Nam Phuong
1100 Washington Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19147-3802
215.468.0410

That was our destination today for lunch.  The restaurant was abuzz, nearly full between 1 and 2 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon.   I got the iced, milk coffee–served old-school drip-coffee style at the table.  For an appetizer, we ordered a papaya salad with shrimp.   We then had the “Three Delight” dish (pictured above) for two.  The plate comes with a bundle of fresh herbs, leaves of lettuce, splinters of cucumber, squares of tapioca-ed vermicelli [bánh hỏi], marinated and minced meat wrapped and then grilled in grape leaves, shrimp balls speared by whittled sugar cane  and cooked, and grilled meat balls.  All that food is to be wrapped into nice rolls with the stack of rice paper provided.  The dish’s total price for two people was $22.95, $11.50 each.  The combination of marinated meats/seafood and fresh vegetables and herbs, supplemented by rice, rice noodles, or rice paper is Vietnamese food at its best.  Nam Phuong’s food is bold and simply good, but there’s nothing pretentious about it–much like Philly.

Nam Phuong on Urbanspoon

Eating in NYC

December 26, 2009

We arrived in NYC yesterday, on Christmas day. The airport was half empty, and we took the 59th St. Bridge from LaGuardia.  Everything about NYC seemed to be moderated: the cab fare, the street traffic, the density of people, even the winter  weather.

Our first order of food business was a mid-afternoon snack: Zabar’s smoked salmon and H&H bagels with cream cheese and E’s sliced veggies with salt.

After Up in the Air (a product-placement disappointment), we had dinner at the Grand Sichuan on 7th Ave.  We went with a group willing to order aplenty and adventurously.   Appetizers included Sichuan cold noodles, ox tongue and tripe with spicy Sichuan sauce, and Shanghai dumplings with love and soup inside, all washed down with a round of Tsingtao.  For the main course, Ggg ordered some Pinot Blanc 2006, Domaine Ostertag imported by Kermit Lynch (a point of emphasis here: a Chinese food restaurant with Kermit Lynch wine!).  First came the greens: sauteed pea shoots and sauteed Shanghai bok choy.  Ahs preferred the pea shoots. Then arrived the shredded chicken with sour cabbage (just ok), lamb with scallions (delicious), steamed whole fish with ginger, and the best dish of the night, “red cooking pig’s elbow,” which had been simmering all day in a thick, tart sauce.  The least satisfying dish was the steamed fish, which was a bit too fishy, of the bottom-feeder variety. The after-taste of the Sichuan spices complimented the rich texture of the ox tongue and tripe, the noodle appetizers were subtly garnished with minute amounts of minced greens, the slices of garlic in the veggie dishes were as crisp as the vegetables.

For a late lunch today, we went with Nat and E to the Shake Shack on Columbus. Finally a burger for ahs to eat after the Times article. It was heavenly.  Ran into the Z-Lo clan.

Headed to dinner now at Uva.

Tomorrow: lunch in Philly.

Christmas Eve

December 26, 2009

Our friends, D&G, took us in and fed us Christmas oyster soup (Welsh style), salad, Yorskshire pudding, and leg of lamb.  Special night with special friends.