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PHUKET DINING: Great value at vintage vamp Kopitiam

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: If you crave quality Chinese-accented Thai cuisine, and might like to savor it in a retro ambiance, you need to visit the latest addition to Old Phuket Town’s culinary scene.

Kopitiam Cafe and Restaurant – a family-owned kitchen located at the Yaowarat Road end of Thalang Road – opened only three months ago but has already established itself as one of the most pleasant eateries in the Old Town.

What immediately strikes you about Kopitiam is its location. The restaurant is positioned smack in the middle of a neighborhood awash in tradition and history, and teeming with character.

Thalang Road, once the most important trading street in Phuket, today boasts a charming sweep of beautifully maintained Sino-Portuguese shop houses, each with a distinctive colorful door.

Kopitiam nestles snugly inside one of these shop houses, complete with sheltered verandah out front where customers can sit and watch map-wielding tourists amble by, or check out Thalang Road’s famous classic Volkswagen car collection.

Owners of the restaurant are Wirot Bumrungwong and his wife Wilai, who used to lecture at Phuket Rajabhat University.

Kopitiam is one of three businesses, all owned by the family, standing side-by-side along the landmark road.

Next door is Wirot’s parents’ 100-year-old Chinese herbal medicine shop, and two doors down is “Wilai”, a restaurant she has owned for 12 years.

Red and green colors greet you at the entrance to Kopitiam, while the interior boasts sturdy teak furniture and whitewashed walls, embellished with fascinating black-and-white photographs of Phuket during the early 20th century.

The restaurant is bright and airy, and crammed with antique knick-knacks, such as a wonderful Sun Standard typewriter, an antique vinyl record player, and a large creaking bookcase housing dusty Hemingway-esque novels and vintage comics.

But Kopitiam is not just a pretty face. It matches its aesthetic charisma with some very tasty goodies, all of which grace the menu at under the 100-baht mark.

The card includes a small but superb vegetarian collection of 10 dishes, all cooked by the lady in charge of the culinary end of things, Chef “Lek”.

“We pride ourselves on the cleanliness of the kitchen and the freshness of the ingredients we use,” says Wirot.

“Around 90 per cent of our customers have been foreigners so far… so our Pad Thai (60 baht) is very popular. We already have a lot of regulars,” he adds.

Start your meal with one of Kopitiam’s signature herbal drinks (20 baht). The refreshing Roselle herbal juice is crisp and sweet with just a hint of fresh cinnamon that tickles the tongue.

Follow this with the vegetarian spring rolls (50 baht). They’re made from shiitake mushroom and a couple of bristly spices, and are tasty and not too greasy. Or try the Tom Yam Goong (90 baht). It’s flavorful and made hearty with thickly cut vegetables.

For mains, the Kaeng Khiew Wan Kai (Green Curry, 70 baht) is excellent, thanks to whispers of basil and delicate salting. Or try the the Hokkien Mee (60 baht), a lip-smacking stir-fried chicken noodle dish in soy sauce.

If these suggestions don’t get you drooling, there are also plenty of standard Thai curry and seafood dishes on offer. There is also a good breakfast menu, and Kopitiam hopes to introduce a dessert menu in April.

Kopitiam is open from Monday to Saturday, 11am to 10pm. T: 081-8923723

— Andrew Jennings

 

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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