A pre-review note: The other day, I got an email from Google, excitedly telling me I had passed 4 million views on the photos with my Google reviews. “You’ve just accomplished what very few people have done: reached 4,000,000 photo views!” the email exclaimed breathlessly. “Keep it up!”
With this award-winning achievement fresh in my mind, and eager to follow the advice to “Keep it up!”, I pulled out my phone today when my wife and I headed out for lunch to do my first restaurant review since February.
I sat there, being just terrible company, typing up my review on my phone in a fit of creative inspiration. I carefully composed and took my photos. And then I came home to upload all of it, only to have Google tell me, with no explanation, that my contribution “might be delayed at this time.”
I Googled that (Google is getting a hell of a lot of airtime in this story) and saw that the message, though somewhat inscrutable, means my review may never actually appear on their website. For reasons that will never actually be explained.
So I’m going to post it here instead. And maybe I’ll start doing that more often, because – why not?
THAI COCONUT – SUNDOWN PLAZA – 7116 E MERCER LN #101, SCOTTSDALE, AZ 85254 – 480-699-7759
At first, we miss the street. A couple of U-turns later, we are cruising through the most unassuming shopping center in Scottsdale. Aged beige stucco so light it’s almost white beneath the shade of red tile roofs. Nail Salons. A small bakery. CBD for dogs. iPhone repair. Finally, we find it: Thai Coconut.
The interior of the restaurant is the pale green of a kaffir lime, with brown accents that underscore the botanical motif. It’s a small place – only 3 booths and 3 tables. We’re greeted earnestly by smiling faces behind the ever present surgical masks of life in a time of pandemic.
As we sit, we’re handed large beer mugs full of ice water. My wife and I decide quickly that we both want the lunch portion of beef drunken noodles; hers Thai spicy, mine medium. We order something called a basil lemonade, and we agree that we want to split an order of tom ka. Before we can ask if we can have that instead of the house soup that comes with our order, we’re being handed two bowls of a vegetable laden broth that tastes…fantastic. I ask if it has a name. Not really, they tell me. It’s just something they made up. It tastes like the kind of soup your grandmother would make, if your grandmother were Thai, and wise about paring flavors, and not stingy with black pepper. I mean that in the best possible way. It’s a home-cooked taste, and it soothes, even on another day of record-breaking heat.
The lemonade, on the other hand, tastes like the powdered stuff my mom used to make. Country Time, I think. I can’t taste the basil. It isn’t good, but even in this, there’s a certain enjoyable nostalgia.
The tom ka comes out next, and it smells as beautiful as it looks, as white as milk tea, with a hint of froth around the edges. There’s nothing anyone can do about the texture of overcooked chicken in hot broth — a signature mouthfeel in restaurants across the spectrum of pan-Asian cuisine — but that broth. Oh, that broth. Creamy and slightly sweet and tasting just the right amount like coconut. It’s rich, but not too thick, and spicy. We order medium spice, but it has some real heat, and poking up from its opaque depths are the peaks of those same kaffir lime leaves, a certain tell of attention to authentic taste. There are lime slices, too, and they taste exotic, even here in a city with abundant citrus, and a bit like candy. It’s not even a question – this is the best tom ka either of us have ever had, and it’s a long-time favorite of ours.
The drunken noodles come just as I’m finishing my soup, and the portion looks just right. The sauce is good, but not the best I’ve had. It’s missing something, but I’m not sure what, until I drizzle a little of the sweet and sour sauce from my spring roll on top of the mix and bring the whole thing to life. Sweet and hot. They go together, especially in Thai dishes. Not too much sweet, just enough. The noodles are a bit narrower than I’m used to – more like chow fun – but instead of being characteristically soggy and falling apart, they are a perfect, slightly chewy al dente. The beef is a bit on the dry side, but still good, and the Thai medium spice turns out to be an American hot. My lips burn pleasantly between bites, and I find myself sweating for reasons other than the Arizona summer.
It’s a good meal. The hosts are friendly, the service attentive, and the price reasonable. We’ll certainly be coming back.
Steve Skojec is a storyteller, writer, blogger, photographer, designer, and sci-fi fan. He is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. He lives in Arizona with his wife Jamie and six of their seven children.