One thing you won’t find a lot of in my writings are restaurant reviews. First off, I’m much too poor to afford eating in “real” restaurants very often and, second, I don’t feel that my writing is good enough to properly make the food I enjoy appealing to others. But I had a great dining experience a few nights ago and want to get the word out on a nice little eatery smack dab in the center of Phuket.
Ever since reading Phuket blogger extraordinaire Jamie Monk’s review of The Deli Restaurant, I’d been begging a friend for a ride over there. After all, the shortcut road it’s located on (Thanon Muang Chaofa) exits almost directly across from the apartment I’d been living in for almost three years. This is a wonderful road, constructed perhaps four years ago to serve as a shortcut between Thanon Chaofa West and the western portions of Kathu Town. From my end, it’s completely free of civilization once you get past the Honda car dealership at the corner. The double-lane road winds through thick trees for approximately five kilometers and a drive along it is always pleasantly cool, sometimes downright chilly. I was somewhat disturbed to see that there’s now a considerable amount of trash lining much of the road as the locals use it as their own personal dump — it’s always bothered me that so many pristine areas of natural beauty are destroyed by the presence of garbage as so many just don’t care. At any rate, the first real buildings alongside the road coming from the west are the university dorm on the left and The Deli’s complex on the right. This includes a supermarket (owned by the same people as The Deli Supermarket in Patong), a guesthouse, and the destined-for restaurant.
On this particular evening, we’d been out in Rawai looking for a new place for me to live. I was famished so I asked my friend (driver) if we could seek out the “59 baht steak”. At first he was reluctant but then I sold him on the Chang beer for 45 baht mentioned in Jamie’s review. As we sped along Muang Chaofa we spied a few paragliders hovering in the last minutes of the sunset. Now, my friend likes to drive his motorbike rather fast and I’m constantly telling him to slow down so we don’t miss things alongside the road (making the apartment search earlier somewhat frustrating as we had to constantly make U-turns). It’s by sheer luck that I saw the huge “59” on a banner as we sped by, necessitating yet another round of back-tracking.
As we entered the restaurant we were greeted by a large chorus of “Hello, Teacher!” Yes, a whole crowd of Kajonkiet kids were having a party — mostly Upper Primary and Mattayom (high school) students so they were kids I’d taught rather than ones who had been in my friend’s classes. None of the fathers were present but there was a large group of the moms sitting nearby — getting rather drunk as we later noticed.
There are a number of items on the menu for 59 baht — two entire pages worth. But my eyes were drawn immediately to the rib eye and sirloin steaks for just a bit more — 149 and 129, respectively. As my friend had offered to treat me I asked his opinion. “Sure, get whatever you want!” Sirloin it was — along with a nice portion of mashed potatoes (19 baht) and a bottle of water (16 baht) although my friend encouraged me to order beer instead. But I didn’t feel comfortable drinking alcohol in front of my former students — teachers are held in high regard in this country and one has to uphold that image; too bad my friend didn’t feel the same. In fact, one of the kids stopped by the table later and asked him, “Teacher, why are you always drunk?” Indeed.
So, how was the food you ask? Well, my steak arrived fairly quickly. Too quickly, in fact, and in retrospect I feel it had probably been ordered and canceled by another customer and merely reheated when I arrived. It was a good-sized portion covered in a delicious brown gravy and accompanied by thin-cut french fries, a small salad, and a corn-peas-carrot medley. There was some very tough fat around the edges that I had to cut away to get at the beef but that’s never a problem. Unless you decide to eat some of that gristle without cutting it into small enough of a portion and then it gets stuck in your throat so you come close to choking as I did. Luckily, I managed to cough it up and not die in front of the kids. The rest of the steak was rather too chewy as well — gave my jaws quite a workout — and it was difficult to taste the steak itself under the gravy. On the other hand, my friends chicken steak in a pepper sauce was extremely delicious (he graciously allowed me two bites).
The mashed potatoes were better even than that served by KFC (the only thing in Thailand I’ve eaten that tastes exactly like it did back in Albuquerque); it was a very generous portion for a very low price.
While I was a bit disappointed with my steak, everything else I tried was good (well, the fries weren’t that great but they never are in Thailand) and I definitely would like to return. There’s plenty of other enticing items on the menu that I’d like to try. Of significant note is a large selection of ice cream — we noticed a poster advertising fried ice cream which I haven’t had since I was a teenager. I actually had to explain what this was to my friend (he comes from New York so you can forgive him). I tried to talk him into trying it but he balked at the 45 baht price — a bargain, I feel, but he’s used to the seven-baht cones at McDonald’s and I once saw him argue with a manager when the price went up a baht. Oh well, beggars can’t be choosers.
Our evening ended with watching one of the drunker moms star yelling bloody murder on her cell phone and then embarrassing her son by dragging him out to their car. I truly felt sorry for the kid and just knew that all the other students in his classes would hear about it the next day. It’s too bad some adults forget that they need to be good role models for their kids. And we wonder why some kids act out in the classroom — there’s your reason right there. Far from distracting from my experience at The Deli Restaurant, it reinforced how much I do miss teaching and serving as a kind of surrogate parent for these kids.
I’ll report back when I return to try their fried ice cream…
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