As a Florida native, non-natives tend to
whine open up to me about why they hate Florida, disdainfully referring to my beloved sunshine state as "the foot of the nation" (in which case New Jersey is clearly the armpit). They lament about nearly everything--the suffocating humidity, our lawless pill-pushing governor, and that empty lot nearby that's just begging for a Trader Joe's.
While all of these are valid complaints, there is one gripe with which I would shamefully agree: Florida--despite its sprawling beaches and endless summer--is a strip mall wasteland.
Cruise down any major street in South Florida and after a while, the infinite strips of garish concrete eyesores becomes a complete blur. How many dollar marts, nail salons, and Metro PCS stores does one state really need after all?
On the flip-side, the lower rent that strip malls typically offer makes it possible for more small business owners to hang their hats. As a result, these mortar monstrosities are also home to a myriad of unique stores and incredible restaurants. Often times, if you look closely, you can even find a few hidden gems like the Thai Room in West Palm Beach.
Head down Okeechobee Boulevard, in the opposite direction of West Palm Beach's popular Clematis Street, and you'll arrive at the Lake Pointe Center plaza, a quiet strip mall whose two main attractions are a Walmart grocery store and a kidney dialysis center--until now.
The Thai Room which opened in the plaza in May, is owned an operated by native Thai husband and wife duo, Patty and
Ken Ekkhot. Patricia runs the front of the house and Ken is the restaurant's chef. Over the past two months, the restaurant has gotten a lot of attention thanks to their stand-out Thai food and welcoming staff. It also doesn't hurt that running Thai restaurants seems to run in the family.
Ken's great aunt, Wattana Sumonthee, owns Wattana Thai, arguably one of West Palm Beach's most popular Thai restaurants that has been in business for over twenty years. Both Ken and Patricia worked at Wattana for several years; Ken as a cook and Patty as a server.
Despite his culinary pedigree, Ken isn't planning on riding on his aunt's coattails. This chef has got chops, dishing out some impressive Thai dishes of his own from classic Thai curries and stir fry to savory specials like Lobster Pad Thai. Their carefully
crafted sauces are made from scratch each day by Patty's mother,
Paisanvit. I was invited to stop in and try a few dishes.
Entree's range from $ 13 to $25. I tried the Massaman curry with squid-- sweet potatoes,
avocado, peanuts, onions, tender pieces of squid in Massaman curry
paste blended with coconut milk.The sauce was light yet surprisingly complex.
was impressed with the Lobster Pad Thai that he'd ordered. Not taking his word for it, my fork frequently
strayed from my curry dish, making several trips to his plate throughout the course of the evening.
The restaurant's interior, with its bold red and gold walls, feels
intimate and inviting. Dark wooden benches are neatly lined with silk
pillows made from traditional Thai Khit fabric. The restaurant's over-sized booths, dim
lighting, and traditional Thai music creates a serene environment; exactly what you want after recovering from a proper Thai-food binge.
The Thai Room is open for lunch (weekdays) and dinner: Monday - Friday 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday 5 to 10 p.m.
The Thai Room
6901 Okeechobee Blvd. Unit D-15, West Palm Beach
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