PHUKET: We’ve been hearing about an exciting new dining experience out in the newly fashionable eastern zone of the island, past the Heroine’s Monument, but we were surprised to find such an elegant white designer restaurant as Monkeypod Coffeehouse sitting at the side of the road in Pa Klok.
Monkeypod is the creation of Chaiyos Pinpradab, a local Phuketian who studied architecture and who spends much of his time reading classic Western literature and thinking about design. He bought this property in Pa Klok twenty years ago and recently decided to invite his family to join him in creating a restaurant/coffeehouse where he could express his design and culinary ideas.
His son, Phai, who shares his father’s interest in the wide world of ideas, works as the genial host and manager of Monkeypod and his sister, Ratchaneevadee, prepares the Thai menu currently offered only in the Thai language.
The clean white spaces of the bistro are set off with large, beautiful monkeypod wooden tables and chairs.The white walls are peacefully empty as Chaiyos says his customers are the art.
However, he has stenciled an Ernest Heminway quote on a wall and I’m told that the literary references will change regularly.
For those wanting the best of Western coffeehouse cuisine, Monkeypod has it. From a classic hamburger to a sumptuous Chicken or Pork Cordon Bleu, Western Chef Chaiyawat Kumsuk has taken these traditional favorites and added his own interpretation. The Chicken Cordon Bleu was served with coconut and rambutan flavors that elevated the creamy sauce.
“We want to celebrate the beauty of the monkey pod trees that surround our property,” explains Phai. “They give inspiration to our menu.We grow as much of our own produce as possible and use what we have on the property to animate our menu.”
In addition to excellent Western menu above, Monkeypod offers a variety of authentic Phuket dishes. Chaiyos’ sister is responsible for the Thai menu. As with many great local chefs, Ratchaneevadee learned the craft and culinary skills from their mother and grandmother who ran a catering business in town.
Local food authority, Wanida Hongyok, has a way of determining the pedigree of a chef by ordering Buer Tod. This dish of batter-fried prawns on a fan of seaweed, says Wanida, is the ultimate test of a chef’s credentials, and the crunchy Buer Tod at Monkeypod, accompanied by a tangy tamarind sauce, passes the test beautifully.
If you like prawns then try goong assam or prawns with tamarind sauce. For this dish, Rachaneewadee only uses wild prawns whose soft shells turn crispy when deep fried. The succulent prawns are then lightly coated with a sweet and sour sauce made from tamarind and palm sugar. Thais usually eat the prawns whole, shell and all, but you may peel them if so wish.
Fish dishes are the usual staple in any local meal and the pla tod krueng or sliced fish with chilli and herb paste served here is robust enough for the locals who are usually known for their penchant for spicy dishes.
One dish we highly recommend is the exotic tofu soup with salted fish, pork and ginger. The combination is at once strange and exotic and will take some getting used to. The soup has a nice smoky flavor thanks to the salted fish. Delicious and satisfying.
Don’t let the Monkeypod modern and minimalist setting fool you into thinking this is yet another nice café. The restaurant’s Thai menu, with the flair for the local classics, is good enough to bring visiting friends and show off Phuket cuisine at its best.
Monkeypod Coffeehouse is on the corner of Lum Sai Road | Highway 4027 and is open 7 days a week from 9am to 9pm for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
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