Phuket offers a unique twist on Thai cuisine

11Sep14

phuket_signIt’s slightly off the beaten path of Main Street, which may explain why despite over a year in operation, Thai restaurant Phuket remains one of downtown Wakefield’s best kept secrets.

But new owner and chef Maeo Crawford hopes to change that and bring the Princess Street eatery the attention it deserves for its great food, bright atmosphere and friendly, attentive service.

Once you know where it is, Phuket is easy to find. It’s located at 21 Princess St. (corner of Princess and Union streets) in Wakefield, MA, directly across from the Public Safety Building. It also has something most downtown restaurants lack – off-street parking. Phuket’s entrance faces the municipal parking lot between Princess and Centre streets.

phuket1With large windows along two sides, Phuket’s dining room by day is filled with a bright, indirect natural light. The restaurant seats 30 diners and offers outdoor seating during the warmer weather.

Crawford says that the name “Phuket” (pronounced “Poo-ket”) comes from Thailand’s largest island, popular for its beaches and resort areas.

Crawford took over Phuket three months ago and she does most of the cooking herself with assistance from her mother. Crawford has over 10 years of experience as a Thai chef and her mother has more than 20 years of experience.

Crawford says that Phuket uses only the freshest, highest quality ingredients in preparing dishes in their spotless kitchen. She notes that Thai food differs from other types of Asian cuisine in that it has a greater variety of flavors which can be adjusted to taste. She says that pepper, curry and coconut are common ingredients used to spice many Thai dishes.

phuket_outsidePhuket’s list of appetizers includes crispy spring rolls stuffed with chicken and vegetables and served with a sweet sauce. (Vegetarian rolls are also a choice.) Chicken Satay, tofu triangles, scallion pancakes and spicy mussels are just a few of the other choices for starters.

If you like soup before your meal, try the spicy lobster soup with mushrooms, tomato, scallions and jasmine rice in a spicy coconut lemongrass broth. Other soup options include Hot and Sour Soup (shrimp, chicken or vegetable); Tom Khar (a mild coconut soup seasoned with galangal, mushrooms, tomato, scallions and lime juice; and Glass Noodle Soup (chicken, shrimp or tofu).

Crawford says that one of Phuket’s most popular main dishes is the Chicken Ka-Prow. It’s a stir fry of minced chicken with peppers, string beans, onions and basil leaves in a Thai chili sauce.

phuket2Another popular house specialty, according to Crawford, is the Chicken Cashew Nuts. It consists of sautéed chicken with pineapple, onions, mushrooms, peppers, zucchini, yellow squash, carrots, scallions and cashew nuts in a pik pow chili sauce.

For many people, the most familiar Thai dish is Pad Thai. Crawford recommends Phuket’s version of Pad Thai, which she says offers a unique twist on this popular noodle dish.

Other house specials include Chicken Pineapple, Pork Garlic, Tofu Royale, Veggie Veggie, Duck Choo Chee and Home-style Duck.

Phuket also offers a variety of seafood dishes, including Siam Seafood with sautéed shrimp, scallops, squid and mussels with vegetables and cashew nuts in a mildly spicy pik pow sauce. Other seafood choices include Hot Country Style Shrimp, Spicy Scallops, Classic Hot Salmon, Oriental Salmon and Dancing Squid.

phuket_entrancePhuket’s menu also features “mix and match” options for lunch and dinner, where you can create your own combinations of meat, fish or tofu with your own favorite vegetables and spices.

No matter what food you choose, it will be brought to your table with a smile by Nom, Phuket’s friendly and efficient waiter. He will also be happy to bring you a beverage from Phuket’s beer and wine list.

Phuket offers many of the same dishes as luncheon specials, served until 3 p.m. They also feature “Lunch Box Specials” (for dine-in only).

phuket3Phuket’s menu is also available for take-out. “We do a lot of take-out business,” Crawford says, stressing that they also do delivery and catering.

Phuket is open seven days a week. Monday through Saturday they open at 11:30 a.m. They are open until 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. On Sundays, Phuket is open for dinner only from 5-9:30 p.m.

In the short time that she has owned Phuket, Crawford has developed a fondness for the town and has even become a Wakefield resident herself. She has high praise for the town’s efforts to help local businesses. phuket_sign2Phuket participated in the recent Festival Italia and Crawford says she got “a lot of good feedback and picked up more customers,” from the festival. She also praised a recent workshop for downtown businesses that the town sponsored.

Crawford points out that the name is sometimes spelled as two words “Phu Ket”, sometimes as one word (Phuket) and sometimes it is hyphenated as “Phu-Ket.” Phuket has a web site and you can also find Phuket on Facebook at Phu-Ket Thai Wakefield. Phone 781-246-9888. The fax number is 781-246-9788.

[This story originally appeared in the September 9, 2014 Wakefield Daily Item.]

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