It was May and I was in a parka. I tossed my heavy black coat on the back of one of many chairs at the new Phuket Royal in Chinatown and ordered up comfort food. The day called for grease and crunch and heat and though I am typically disappointed with squid in Thai restaurants, I took a gamble and ordered up T5, Phuket’s calamari ($6.95). It was surprisingly good. The tubes were tender, covered in a browned tempura coat flecked green with cilantro and nicely seasoned. The dipping sauce was pedestrian, but the dish did the trick of warming me up.
Formerly the Wa Kiu Foods store, Phuket Royal now stretches out to fill this sizeable corner of Somerset West. Its long menu is mostly Thai offerings, with two pages devoted to Vietnamese soup and noodle dishes. We stuck with the Thai side, and found our lunch tasty, affordable, and sweetly served.
Next up, T42: a fry-up of tofu with Chinese eggplant, onions, peppers, and plenty of holy basil and garlic. Really very good. The panang prawn curry relied on the strength of the nubbly, peanut-powered sauce, though the shrimp were pretty snappy — a better quality than the norm.
T63 is pad kee Mao, more interesting than the ubiquitous pad Thai in my opinion, with chicken, vegetables, egg, cilantro, and chilies. And though nothing much to look at, the spicy salad called larb kai of minced chicken with loads of crunchy shallots, fresh mint and ground, roasted rice in a lime and lemongrass dressing was a hit of heat and flavour.
I believe Phuket Royal is Chinatown’s only Thai restaurant. And so a welcome addition to an increasingly more vibrant strip.
Squid, $6.95; noodles/curries/stir fries, $9.95 to $14.95.
Open daily 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
713 Somerset St. W., 613-235-3134