Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Thai Island

I am not at all sure I think too highly of the modern fad in favor of Thai food in the US. I am pretty sure I'm missing something but when someone suggests eating Thai I don't get all excited, and perhaps that's my shortsightedness, perhaps because there is only one flavor that springs to mind when Thailand is the destination: coconut milk.
Thai food is Pad Thai and coconut curry to most westerners. I am a westerner who has never been to Thailand even though I have been offered the use of a seafront condo in Thailand by one of my wife's numerous relatives. Why did I never go? I'm not sure, perhaps because I am not terribly interested in the Far East, and I am sorry if that sounds odd. There is so much world to see and I have interests elsewhere. Lack of time and money focus the mind, I find, which shortcoming irritates me even more when wealthy retirees take a part time job out of boredom. How one gets bored in this world I'm sure I don't know. Nevertheless I am not one to pass up a chance for interesting food in a lovely setting. Thai Island overlooks the waters of Garrison Bight, a harbor wedged between North Roosevelt Boulevard and the Island's north shore.
One can also drink at the bar and enjoy the view. It's been a muggy Fall in Key West so we elected to eat indoors.
The first course was soup, coconut flavored of course with tofu which was delicious and supposedly good for my persistent airline cold I picked up on my flight home from Rome. Alongside that we had chicken curry poppers of some sort. They were pretty good too with sweet vinegar and pickled vegetables.
Then we shared Pad Thai, which I am told means stir fried Thai rice noodles. It is they say a Thai aKe on what is essentially a Chinese dish and in Thailand it is sold by food stands on the streets not so much in restaurants. Except that Pad Thai is so closely associated with Thailand it has now been a requirement to offer it to visitors who have come to expect it! Ours was splendid, of course, American style.
They also offer sushi though connoisseurs say Ambrosia is best. My wife is threatening to take me there though I am no great fan of raw fish, not least because it is monstrously expensive. I eat out on the theory that if you are going to make me pay through the nose for food, the least you can do is cook it.
Eating out is a popular sport in Key West and this place is quite well patronized, as it should be with decent food at good prices. The nature of food in this intercontinental age is more multinational than we like to think. Fortune cookies aren't Chinese, burritos aren't Mexican, and pizza is more American than Italian most places round the globe. I asked a colleague about the Canadian chain Tim Horton's the other day as she is navigating a long range relationship with a Canadian man employed in the Alberta oil business. She wrinkled her nose and said its a mixture of Dunkin Donuts, McDonalds with weak coffee and a sandwich shop. The most important thing about it for Canadians is that it is Canadian. And why not? In a world of homogenization I suppose that's no bad thing, though I wonder what exactly constitutes Canadian food?
The entrance to Key West is in shambles these days, the Waffle House has closed as have all the restaurants and hotels all the way to The Inn, as the Spottswood empire renovates hotels that were to have been swept away to make room for a huge convention center that never came to pass. Dunkin Donuts recently reopened on the Boulevard after an absence of a couple of years. Talking to youngsters in Key West they will speak wistfully about familiar chains never seen down here, Olive Garden, Sonic Burgers, and so forth. Yet this town still manages to fly in the face of homogenization.
That the Thai Island eatery is located upstairs from a Yamaha outboard parts shop just adds to the charm. Or should.

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