The Nantucket Epicure: Thai House Restaurant


The Nantucket Epicure


By Mary Beth McCahan


Thai House Restaurant is Off to a Good Start

ThaiHouse

I unexpectedly found myself without dinner plans the other night and thought I’d take the opportunity to try out Nantucket’s newest restaurant, Thai House, located at 118 Old South Road across from the airport, in the space vacated by the Dancing Pickle last year. Thai House is operated by the Thairatana family, and they offer not only Thai specialties, but also a number of Chinese-, Asian Fusion-, and Japanese- inspired dishes, including a full sushi menu.

The layout of the restaurant hasn’t changed from the way it was when the Pickle was there – the kitchen is situated along one side of the building, separated by a counter, but open to customer observation. The opposite side of the building contains a small and nicely decorated dining room where table service is available. The place is bright and clean, and both times I’ve walked in (first to pick up the takeout menus and the second time to pick up my order), the room has been filled with appealing sweet and spicy aromas. Service, both on the phone and in person, was prompt, friendly, and capable.

ThaiHouse

ThaiHouse

For my first experience with Thai House, I decided to focus on their Thai dishes. I ordered a broad selection of items to get a good feel for efficiency, quality, and technique (yep, I have a lot of leftovers). My food was ready for pickup in about 20 minutes from the time I called, which I thought was pretty reasonable given the number of different things I’d ordered and the fact that there were several customers ahead of me. As I arrived, I ran into a friend who was getting takeout from them for a second time, which I took to be a good sign.

On the whole, prices were reasonable, portions were generous, and quality was good, with appetizing ingredients carefully and competently prepared. Flavors were bright and authentic, though in a few cases I felt that they could be better balanced, as I’ve noted in the comments on specific dishes that follow. Spicy dishes tend to be pretty hot as prepared, so if you don’t have a great tolerance for spicy heat, you may want to ask them to tone it down a bit when you order.

Of course, I never miss an opportunity for testing wine pairings, and this was no exception. Optimally, I would have balanced the heat in the dishes with an off-dry wine (like a Riesling, Gewürztraminer, or Vouvray), but since I didn’t have any around the house, I settled for an interesting white Nebbiolo I’d gotten last year from Beth English at Current Vintage (2009 Pietro Nera Chiavennasca Bianco La Novella) – though dry with distinct minerality, it contains floral and fruity notes that provided a nice counterpoint to the dishes.

Here’s what I thought about the specific items I tried:

Tom Kha Kai Soup (Coconut milk with galangal, lime, mushrooms, and scallion) – Rich, tasty, and satisfying, though with a lime tartness that was a little too strong and could have been better balanced with the other flavors in the soup. My enjoyment was also briefly interrupted by a couple of overly tough pieces of lemongrass that I’d rather had stayed on the cutting board.

Fresh Rolls (Lettuce and other fresh vegetables with fried tofu and noodles wrapped in rice paper and served with slightly sour peanut sauce) – While certainly fresh, I found these rolls bland and uninteresting, though the appealing peanut sauce helped to punch them up a bit.

ThaiHouse
Fresh Rolls

Crab Rangoon (Crabmeat with cream cheese wrapped in crispy wonton skin served with sweet and sour sauce) – I know, crab rangoon dumplings aren’t Thai, or even Chinese (word is that they may have been invented in the U.S. by Trader Vic’s in the 50s), but I wanted to try them because I haven’t found ones yet that I liked, and I thought I’d give Thai House a chance to change my mind. And they did. Usually when I’ve had them at other restaurants, they’ve been in thick wontons so overly fried that I could hardly taste the filling, but Thai House’s version were in lighter wontons that were lightly fried like tempura, creating a very nice balance with the creamy centers. Of course, fried things rarely do well in take-out situations, because they tend to get a bit steamed and soggy while waiting to be picked up, taken home, and eaten. But even with that complication, these were appealing (so much so that I broke my “working” rule and had more than just one). Next time, I think I’ll order them in-restaurant and eat them as soon as they come out of the fryer to taste them at their best.

Chicken Satay (Slices of chicken on a stick, marinated in coconut milk and light curry sauce, served with peanut sauce and sweet cucumber sauce) – The chicken was tender, tasty, and nicely grilled. An uncomplicated and pleasing appetizer.

ThaiHouse
Chicken Satay

Kung-fu Basil, with ground chicken (stir fry with basil, red and green peppers) – Simple, fresh, and flavorful, but very spicy (or so I thought, until I moved on to the green curry.)

Green Curry, with shrimp (rreen and red peppers, onions, zucchini, and fresh basil) – Good flavor, with nice, fresh vegetables that retained some pleasing crispiness and perfectly cooked shrimp (read: not overcooked, which isn’t easy to achieve with take-out). Sauce was on the thin side, but tasty. The spicy heat in this dish sneaks up on you, starting subtly but gaining significant strength as you continue eating. Definitely not unpleasant, but if you’re sensitive, you may want to ask them to tone it down a bit. I’ve had subtler, more sophisticated and better-balanced green curries in my time, but this one was definitely a contender, and I’d order it again (with less heat).

ThaiHouse
Green Curry

Velvet Salmon (steamed salmon filet sautéed with mushrooms, carrots, onions, red and green peppers, celery, and scallions, with ginger sauce) – A generous portion of salmon, in an appealing-sounding preparation, but it didn’t do so well in the take-out scenario. The plentiful vegetables in an aromatic and tasty ginger sauce were a little overcooked to begin with, and didn’t improve with the waiting time. And, piled as they were over the salmon, their heat resulted in an overcooked piece of fish, as well. A bit more careful planning on the chef’s part could correct this, of course, but if you like salmon, I think it might be better/safer to try this dish on a night you’re eating in the restaurant, rather than getting it for take-out.

Pad Thai, with pork (stir fried noodles with egg, ground nuts, bean sprouts, cabbage, carrots, and scallions) – Nicely prepared, with yummy and surprisingly tender pork.

ThaiHouse
Pad Thai

Pineapple Fried Rice, with chicken (stir-fried rice with egg, pineapple, onions, peas, carrots, and raisins, with a light curry powder) – I have to say that this is not the best pineapple fried rice I’ve ever tasted, but it had a certain je ne sais quoi about it that usually is possessed by the best comfort/hangover food. The chicken and egg were nicely cooked, but none of the other ingredients, on their own, were particularly inspiring (frozen carrots and peas, non-descript and slightly gluey rice, etc.). However, together, they created something that was strangely compelling. I’m not sure how it was achieved, because as far as I could tell, the chicken wasn’t grilled and nothing else in the dish seemed to have been charred, but the dish had an agreeable charcoal-ly flavor that balanced very nicely with the sweetness of the pineapple and raisins, as well as the other components of the dish.

Yum Nur Yang (sliced grilled beef mixed with onion, carrot, scallion, lemongrass, mint, ground sweet rice, lime juice and Thai spices with Thai dressing) – This one didn’t shine for me – flavors and textures just seemed very unbalanced. The steak was on the tough side, the dressing was too strong and tart, the vegetables were wilted (from heat, spice and acidity), and the spice was so hot that it came close to obliterating everything else in the dish. I was surprised about the lack of flavor and tenderness of the steak, because judging from the other dishes I had, the chef seems to have quite a way with meat.

ThaiHouse
Steak Salad

Steamed Jasmine Rice — The steamed rice that accompanied most dishes was unremarkable – not much aroma or flavor, and rather clumpy. It provides additional texture for the various dishes, but it would be more pleasing if it was firmer and fluffier, and a bit more aromatic.

Thai-Style Fried Banana (Deep fried, with grated coconut in sesame batter) – Really, what more can I say than, “What’s not to like about a fried banana?” If I’d had ice cream and caramel sauce, I would have been in heaven.

The Bottom Line

Thai House serves creditable Thai cuisine, offers a nice range of other Asian alternatives, and is definitely worth a try. It may not be Thai nirvana, but it’s good, authentic, and satisfying, and also provides a convenient lunch and dinner alternative for customers located mid- and East-island.


Mary Beth McCahan escaped from the corporate world a few years ago to write, enjoy life, and pursue her passions, which are centered on food, wine, and Nantucket. Her recently launched blog on those subjects, Nantucket Epicure, can be found online at http://nantucketepicure.com.

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Nantucket Boys and Girls Club Summer Soiree

The Nantucket Boys and Girls Club Summer Soiree took place on Saturday, July 23, 2011 at the Nantucket Boys & Girls Club, It was the 4th annual event to benefit the Boys and Girls Club, with cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and dancing. Photos by Gene Mahon, assisted by Amanda Morgan. More at MahonAboutTown.com.

Bid on Nantucket


New Island Business: Bid on Nantucket

Ed Tranter, pictured with his family below, has been visiting and vacationing on Nantucket for more than 20 years. I asked Ed what brought him to launch his new web business, Nantucket’s newest way to rent or list a home.

“The idea of BidOnNantucket.com came to me after my family had purchased a home here. Learning what the market was like for a homeowner who wanted to rent, coupled with the experience I gained from renting other people’s homes summer after summer for so many years, got me thinking. In addition to the fact that life today is very fast-paced and that people want to be in control and make quick decisions, they also want to save money. BidOnNantucket.com is designed to address all these concerns.”

“As a homeowner, when I realized that I didn’t have to involve a third party broker to close a rental deal, I could not only speed up the entire process, but also save the renter and myself some money. More specifically, there were available weeks during the year that were left unrented, and I wanted the opportunity to try to fill these weeks myself by speaking directly with potential renters. It was important to me to have control over renting my home instead of having it remain vacant, and I wanted the ability to negotiate a deal that would satisfy the renter’s needs and mine. If I had any questions for the homeowner, I could address them immediately.”

“The concept seemed like a win-win on both sides.”

Launched in March, 2011, BidOnNantucket.com is a real estate rental auction website designed to help Nantucket homeowners reach renters who are specifically looking to vacation on Nantucket.

There is no cost for renters. They sign up on the website for a user name and password and start bidding on their Nantucket vacation rental. Once a renter has registered, he or she may contact the homeowner directly, saving broker’s fees while getting a good sense of what the property is like – location, lease specifications, the homeowner’s rules and island amenities, etc.

For homeowners, BidOnNantucket.com reaches potential renters looking to vacation on Nantucket. Homeowners can communicate directly with their prospective renters, saving money and at the same time screening interested renters for those who will respect and take care of the property. The homeowner decides what level of contact he or she wants to have with a prospective renter.

BidOnNantucket does not get involved in how a homeowner prices the rental. Listing a home on BidOnNantucket does not preclude the homeowner from listing the property with a realtor, nor trying to rent the home themselves.

As a homeowner, there are two listing options:

~ “Featured Listing”, $99/month: the home will be one of four highlighted on the main page of BidOnNantucket.com for one month.

~ “Latest Listing”, free for one month: Sign up, follow a simple three-step process to list your home, and wait for potential renters to contact you – no upfront fees, no back-end fees when you rent your home. Homeowners can post up to ten photographs, include a detailed description, and choose the listing price.

Eventually there will be a small fee for a three, six, nine or twelve month listings, but BidOnNantucket.com promises to have the lowest rates of any rental site.

The homeowner selects the dates the property is available and decides how long the bidding window will remain open, then sets the “Starting Bid” price, the lowest price he or she is willing to accept. The renter cannot ” underbid ” the ” Starting Bid. ” The homeowner may also set a “Rent It Now” price, which is an amount she is willing to take for her property with no further bidding. If a prospective renter places a bid, the homeowner is notified. If a prospective renter is outbid, he is notified. When the bidding process ends, the homeowner contacts the chosen bidder, and the site will reflect that the home has been rented. All bidding activity that takes place can be viewed under “See Bid List.”

The concept behind BidOnNantucket.com has expanded to three other new websites:

http://bidonthecape.com/
http://bidonmarthasvineyard.com/
http://bidonskihomes.com/ Coming this fall.

BidOnNantucket.com has been gaining interest and traffic since it’s launch in March of 2011. The site will eventually offer advertising opportunities, and promises to never charge high rates for using the site.


WCVB Boston Channel 5’s “Chronicle” recently did a piece on BidOnNantucket. Watch it here.

Nantucket Headlines

Headlines from local publications, and links to the full story. Sources: Inquirer and Mirror, PlumTV, Yesterday’s Island, Cape Cod Times, and other pertinent sources.


ISLAND LIFE

  • Mid-island market plan gaining momentum | Inquirer and Mirror
  • The Cobbletones singers shut down by cops | Inquirer and Mirror
  • The Nantucket Garden Festival | Plum TV
    Amy Pallenberg on the third annual Nantucket Garden Festival which benefits the Lighthouse School.

  • Triathlon time-change causes concerns | Inquirer and Mirror

    PEOPLE

  • Methodist Church welcomes new minister on Centre Street | Inquirer and Mirror

    OPINION

  • Goodman’s Gam | Inquirer and Mirror
    Screaming children, herbicides, whale tail, Pearl aquarium, races.


    ARTS

  • On Point: Atheneum brings best of ballet to island | Inquirer and Mirror
  • Funny ladies kick off Comedy Festival | Inquirer and Mirror
  • Nantucket Comedy Festival | Yesterday’s Island
  • Design and Art at the NHA | Yesterday’s Island
  • Peter Pan | Yesterday’s Island
  • The Nantucket Dance Festival | Plum TV
    Nantucket Atheneum’s Director Molly Anderson on this year’s Nantucket Dance Festival.

  • Comedians Anne Meara & Jerry Stiller | Plum TV
    On their latest projects and their plans for their summer on Nantucket.

  • My Hamlet: Actor Mike O’Malley | Plum TV
    His favorite places on the island
  • Classical music alive and well on Nantucket | Inquirer and Mirror

    BUSINESS & ECONOMY

  • Serenella | Yesterday’s Island
  • Officials eye pumping up gas tax | Boston Herald

    CUISINE

  • Chinese food returns to island | Inquirer and Mirror
  • Rose & Crown | Yesterday’s Island
  • Lighter Fare | Yesterday’s Island

    OCEAN AND ENVIRONMENT

  • Authorities seek suspect who tried to cut off whale’s tail | Inquirer and Mirror
  • On The Waterfront: Trouble for island’s marine life | Inquirer and Mirror
  • The Short, Sad Life of a Humpback Whale Calf | Yesterday’s Island
  • Comeback of Gray Seals a problem for some | Inquirer and Mirror
  • Ship’s remains give peek at past | Boston Globe
  • State awards electric vehicle charging stations to 25 cities and towns (including Nantucket) across the Commonwealth | Cape Cod Today
  • Scott Brown seeks to hike fines for killing seals | Cape Cod Times
  • At epic wreck of the Andrea Doris, another victim | Boston Globe

    POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

  • Records reveal questionable bidding practices at airport
    | Inquirer and Mirror

  • Airport Commission chairman issues statement on I&M story, airport bidding | Inquirer and Mirror
  • Unpaid airport bills could force Special Town Meeting in fall | Inquirer and Mirror
  • News With Nantucket’s Town Administrator | Plum TV
    Guest host Natalie Jacobson talks to Nantucket’s Town Administrator Libby Gibson about the latest news on the island, including the controversy surrounding the upcoming triathlon and the current condition of the roads out by Surfside.


    HISTORY

  • Shipwreck in 1886 | Yesterday’s Island

  • Nantucket Film Festival Update

    The Screenwriters Tribute to Paul Haggis and the New Voices in Screenwriting Award to Ben Queen takes place tonight, Saturday, June 25 at 7 pm at the ‘Sconset Casino.

    Who will be there: Academy Award winner Paul Haggis (writer/director, Crash), Ben Queen (writer, Cars 2), presenters Richard Corliss (senior writer, TIME Magazine) and Richard Orr (senior editor, The Atlantic), and host Brian Williams.

    Morning Coffee With… for Sunday, June 26th at 9 am at the Rose & Crown will include Ben Queen (writer, Cars 2), Anna Kerrigan (writer/director/star, Five Days Gone), Ursula Lawrence (Writers Guild of America, East representative), Amy Sultan (co-director, To Be Heard), Daniel Meisel (writer/producer, Benevides Born), and moderator Dana Harris.

    The All-Star Comedy Roundtable presented by Ben Stiller takes place tomorrow, Sunday, June 26 at 1 pm at Nantucket High School, with Ben Stiller, Jerry Seinfeld, Seth Meyers, Aziz Ansari, and Colin Quinn.

    Nantucket Film Festival Opening Film

    Here is a sampling of photos from the Nantucket Film Festival Opening Film, Cars 2, Wednesday, June 22 at the ‘Sconset Casino. More photos next week.
    Photos by Gene Mahon. More at MahonAboutTown.com.


    Opening Day


    NFF Opening Day


    NFF Opening Day


    NFF Opening Day


    NFF Opening Day


    NFF Opening Day


    NFF Opening Day


    NFF Opening Day


    NFF Opening Day

    Nantucket Film Festival Opening Night Film

    Here is a sampling of photos from the Nantucket Film Festival Opening Night Film, Buck, Wednesday, June 22 at the High School. More photos next week.
    Photos by Gene Mahon. More at MahonAboutTown.com.


    Opening Day


    NFF Opening Day


    NFF Opening Day


    NFF Opening Day


    NFF Opening Day


    NFF Opening Day


    NFF Opening Day


    NFF Opening Day

    Nantucket Film Festival “In Their Shoes with Vera Farmiga”

    Here is a sampling of photos from the Nantucket Film Festival “In Their Shoes with Vera Farmiga”, Thursday, June 23 at the Coffin School. More photos next week.
    Photos by Gene Mahon. More at MahonAboutTown.com.


    NFF Vermiga


    NFF Vermiga


    NFF Vermiga


    NFF Vermiga


    NFF Vermiga


    NFF Vermiga


    NFF Vermiga


    NFF Vermiga


    NFF Vermiga


    NFF Vermiga

    Nantucket Film Festival and Dreamland Theater Reception

    Here is a sampling of photos from the Nantucket Film Festival Reception with the Dreamland Theater, Thursday, June 23 at the Westmoor. More photos next week. Photos by Gene Mahon. More at MahonAboutTown.com.

    Nantucket Wine Festival Opening Night

    The 15th annual Nantucket Wine Festival Opening Reception took place Wednesday, May 18, 2011 at the White Elephant, featuring Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Champagne served with savory appetizers prepared by the Executive Chef of the Brant Point Grill, Frederick Bisaillon, and accompanied by the music of Nantucket guitar virtuoso Jim Sulzer. Photos by Gene Mahon, assisted by Amanda Morgan. More at MahonAboutTown.com.