In a household where a lot of time & thought goes into what we eat (perhaps on the obsessive/compulsive side), there are few dining spots in town that are both affordable AND makes our mouths water & our bellies grumble at the mere mention of a night where we eat their food instead of ours. Exhibit A (a.k.a. Crack Chicken) is reason alone for Ken to throw down his kitchen mitts & head to West Seattle for Asian cuisine not of his own making.
Unfortunately, this picture is not worth a thousand words--the plight of blogging in dimly-lit restaurants when dinner becomes photo shoot, appetites are raging & everyone has their own opinion on getting the best shot while your food gets cold. Life is a whole lot easier not trying to capture every digital-plated-moment, but sometimes you have to stop & push the button (perfect or not), hold the chopsticks.
Topped by a backlight of glowing neon lumber signs from the outside, Buddha Ruksa in West Seattle is a Thai jewel wrapped in DYI wood-paneled chic. In a city where Thai restaurants rival coffee joints, this has been our best discovery for lip-smacking Asian cuisine--but not with its ups & downs depending on the dish of your choosing. Not since the days of the Mandalay Cafe have we found a great wine list with marginal mark-up, creative flourishes on traditional dishes at non-Wild Ginger prices, & an ambience that makes the place worthy of Friday night prime-time dining. Here's our advice thus far:
DO! Order the "House Specialty" Crispy Garlic Chicken: House specialties are listed for a reason. This is Thai-style General Tso chicken but without the batter & a little more veg (so you feel slightly healthier ordering it.) The smokey mystery bits of spices will have you too addicted to Ruksa's crack formula.
DON'T! Give in to the Sample Platter: Do you know how rare a sample platter performs well? Almost never! If you want surprise & variety at the same time, go for the omakase at your favorite sushi joint. Otherwise you're looking at a Russian roulette of fried "stuff" that sounds good when the menu is put before you & you're starving, but has as much finesse as generic Buffalo chicken wings.
DO! Try the Kao Soy Noodles: Having ordered it twice, there's no doubt in my mind that this is one of the best Southeast Asian noodle dishes I've tasted beyond Mandalay's laksa. A yellow curry with coconut milk, I've taken to the vegetarian/tofu version as they don't fry their bean curd & you get steamed broccoli, cabbage & more to cut the richness along with a tidy tray of accoutrements with a salty tang.
DON'T! Get the Wonton Phad Thai: Some people love it (it was recommended to us by a raving regular) but our crew gave a thumbs down to this messy plate of fried wontons with an undetectable filling (meaning hardly any) & a whole lot of bean sprouts powered by fish sauce. I haven't ordered Phad Thai for years, but now I'm driven to erase this experience & set things right again.
Finally DO! Slurp Up the Prawn & Pumpkin Curry: Sure coconut curries are a bit higher in fat than your average stir fry, but this menu item is so decadently rich & flavorful that I usually end up with a fair amount of leftovers. The hearty chunks of pumpkin have a harmonious effect of grounding the dish while the perfectly cooked shrimp give it a delicate air. And best yet, these guys will give you genuine 4 star food if you ask for it!