The truth is, I’m not crazy about Thai food. Coconut milk, peanut sauce, stir-fried cucumber…. Not for me. I’m going to mostly blame this on how I grew up–where an Old El Paso taco kit was considered exotic fare, and I never even tried chinese food until I was in high school. I’d tried a few Thai places in Atlanta and Mobile, but the real concept of it didn’t hit home until I moved to the PNW. I soon started my own private poll on the amount of people who didn’t just like Thai food, but loved it. Without exaggeration, I can tell you that every person I asked about Thai food, with specific emphasis on the words phad thai, responded with “Mmmm, phad thai.” Like it was some celestial ambrosia rained down from the gods to fall onto white plates, then sprinkled with peanuts, and eaten with cheap chopsticks. Really? Were noodles with sprouts that amazing? Had I just been trying the wrong dishes at the east coast joints I’d visited? So I tried the PNW version.
Ok, not bad. For a noodle dish.
Maybe that’s the thing, I’d never been a noodle person until the past few years. But people in the PNW are crazy for Thai. Craaaazy. Ask a group of people “Where do y’all wanna eat?” and the majority will vote for Thai. Over the years I’ve tried to mature my pallet, but I could never get past the peanut sauces or coconuts milks, and relied heavily on the spicy and sweet combinations that are my go-to favorites. There’s generally always a spicy sweet chicken on the menu, but most Thai places love throwing cucumber and tomato into the mix, and while I love a good salad, keep it way from the skillet, please.
And so Friday found us at the Buddha. Ruksa, that is. West Seattle. On Genesee. It’s right off Fauntleroy, but a little weird to find, tiny, all street parking, and you can’t even enter through the front door because they’ve closed it off to create more table space.
The prices seemed a little spendy for Thai food, but I figured I would withhold judgement to see if they spent the money on flavor.
Jasmine tea to cut the burn of any 3-4 star orders.
I love ordering sampler items from the menu on a first visit, and once again am left to wonder why they don’t offer sampler platters with entree items. This is the sampler platter from the appetizer menu ($11). Spring rolls, crab wonton, prawns in a blanket, bags of gold, and fried tofu. I’m not sure what tofu did to get the “fried” added to its name when every single item on that plate was fried except the carrot garnish.
Prawns in blankets and fried squash. The fresh squash was interesting, but I couldn’t help but think that it would’ve been better if it were sweet potatoes. That’s my southern talking, I imagine.
That little bundle is filled with shrimp, chicken, shitake mushrooms, and water chestnuts. It was a little weird, but alright. I wouldn’t get an entire order of these things, but it was worth a taste. And that square of fried tofu tasted like those sauces there on the plate. I understand tofu’s purpose in life, I just can’t agree with it.
Maybe some one will explain to me one day when a shrimp becomes a prawn. These shrimps/prawns weren’t just rolled in wrappers and thrown out to fry, oh no. There was flavor smeared all over them first, and they didn’t have that overcooked rubbery consistency that. The spring rolls were spicier than any I’d ever had before, and I liked that about them, but the star of this platter was definitely the crab wonton. It’s hard to mess up deep fried crab and cream cheese, and the Buddha Ruksa didn’t even try. Overall, the sampler platter was a fun-filled deep-fried adventure that I think everybody should try at least once, and if you’re not willing to go all the way, go for the crab rangoon or spring rolls.
Usually James goes for the famous phad thai, but he went with the phad kee mao ($9.5) with beef, which was stir-fried fresh wide rice noodles plus egg,, onion, broccoli, bell pepper, tomato and sweet basil with special chili sauce. He got it with chicken, which was ok with me because beef in these joints is usually way overcooked and tasteless. The 3 star ranking had my mouth sizzling, but it was incredibly tasty. Except for that one thing.
The big fatty. That right there is the reason I avoid most things Thai–big, flat noodles. Yuk. However, I’ve learned there’s more to Thai than noodles, and the wonderful spicy and sweet flavors don’t always come with coconut or peanut.
The crispy garlic chicken ($11) is my new best friend. This stuff is amazing. I ordered it with three stars so it definitely zinged, but not in a “Oh my gawd I can’t eat this” way, but more like “This is so spicily delicious, I just wonder how long I’m going to pay for this” kind of way.
You know a restaurant’s serious about its deep-frying skills when they’re deep-frying the herbs. The fried basil bits were just awesome. Who knew?
This dish is worth the trip to West Seattle alone. Spicy, sweet, and crispy. If somebody had introduced me to this dish all those years ago, I never would’ve doubted Thai food’s awesomeness.
Apparently I’ve been given wrong directions to good Thai food joints up ’til now, and the fortune cookie knew it. If Thai food happiness is a direction, they’re this: from I-5, take the West Seattle bridge and keep going on Fauntleroy until you get to the corner of Genesee. Find a parking spot, get in line at the end of the block, and get yourself an order of crispy garlic chicken. Share if you must, as some say that sharing means caring (whatever, I’m pretty sure that’s juts an attempt to eat your crispy garlic chicken), but happiness will soon follow.