Finding good authentic Thai food in Phuket is not exactly an easy task. Unlike in Shanghai where you can hop off the bus and easily find a local eatery that serves xiao long baos that are miles better than the Chinese restaurant back home, in Phuket, most of the eating places serve western food, and westernised Thai food. Luckily we found a gem in the form of Nikita’s restaurant.
The problem with finding good food at Phuket was that there weren’t a lot of resources of good authentic Thai food in Phuket, on the internet. I guess that even though there is a large population of caucasians in Phuket, they might not exactly have embraced the local cuisine as readily as others had. Just check on Trip Advisor and you would find the top eateries all being some high or mid-end restaurant.
Luckily we stumbled upon Nikita’s restaurant, which is located at Rawai beach. This is one of the oldest and largest restaurant in the area. Originally a bar, Nikita’s has since blossomed into a full service restaurant with a wine list and even a wood-fired pizza for good old Napolito style Thai infused pizzas.
While it seemed like a tourist trap, being on the beach and all, it was actually very good Thai food at very reasonable prices. In fact, it was so good that we ate there twice in the course of 3 days. That said, their western offerings are very questionable. I would skip their western offerings entirely, except for their pizzas.
The only reason why we ordered western items was because on the 4th day at Phuket, my Swiss buddy started to miss western food and needed a quick fix.
Think rustic, beach-side restaurant. This is not a classy restaurant, and it shouldn’t be so. Wooden weathered tables with time-worn chairs. The cool gentle sea breeze caressed our faces as we ate by the beach. Lighting can be a little dim at certain parts of the restaurant, while other tables have a direct light over them. Some tables have a candle in a large glass jar (pictured above) which I thought was quite unique.
The staff spoke perfect english, and like in most places in Thailand, were extremely friendly and courteous. Service was prompt and attentive; We were often asked if everything was ok. Something I did not expect from such an establishment. They have a large menu, including a separate menu for featured items, together with photos of the dishes.
Like many restaurants in Phuket, there were the standard Thai offerings and also a plethora of western ‘delights’ such as spaghetti bolognese and cheeseburgers.
Massaman curry chicken. This is a uniquely Thai curry that is available everywhere in Phuket. Unlike many other curries, it is quite watery — almost like a soup. It also contains fried peanuts in it. To be honest, I grew up eating curries in Singapore before I even had my first french fry, and I didn’t particularly like the Thai Massaman curry. One, it is too watery. Two, it is too bland mild. It almost tasted like some sort of turmeric coconut soup, and I’m not only speaking about Nikita’s version, but rather about the 3-4 massaman curries that we had during our 7 day stay in Phuket. 6/10
Yum goong siap. This is a thai papaya salad with smoked dried shrimps. Dried shrimp is common in chinese cuisine, but the version here has a particular smoked flavour. The salad itself was like any other good Thai papaya salad — sour, sweet, salty and thai spicy. (super spicy) The dried shrimp actually added a huge umami kick and accent to the already flavour-bombastic salad. The cashew nuts offered another layer of crunch. Not every restaurant offers this dish — only the ones that serve authentic Thai food have it. This was definitely worth trying. 8/10
Thai Papaya Salad. No self-righteous foodie would leave Thailand without ordering at least 2 plates of the Thai papaya salad. Tossed and mashed together with a special type of crunchy green papaya, similar to yambean. This was very good — a good balance of sweet, sour, salty and Thai spicy (super spicy). Unlike the prior dried prawn salad, this one had a brighter, more piquant flavour. 8/10
Tom yum goong. Of course, how can we miss out on the iconic Thai soup. The large serving came in a Chinese style hotpot, and was easily one of the best clear-style tom yum soup I’ve ever had. No, let me correct that, it IS the best tom yum soup I have ever tasted. The spiciest too, but oh so sadistically good. Chock full of mushrooms and various seafood, the tom yum was packed with the usual flavours lemon grass and kaffir lime leaves and the heat of a thousand chillis. All the squid, prawns, fish, mushrooms and mussels resulted in a natural sweetness and umami in the soup. The hotpot helped kept the soup warm throughout the meal. This has to be the perfect way to serve and enjoy Tom yum soup. Not a drop of cold soup was had, that evening. 10/10
Deep-fried fish cakes. These were quite mediocre. I felt the overall texture was a little dense and the crunch a little heavy. The filling was well spiced, but it didn’t come across as a dish I would order again. 7/10
Chicken red curry. This was actually more yellow than red, and had many pieces of chicken breast and various vegetables; Not quite how I like my curries. The consistency was thicker than the massaman curry, but it also suffered the same dominant sweet coconut milk taste. 7/10
Chicken satay. The chicken satay here were slightly better than the ones I had had throughout the trip. However it was still lacklustre, because chicken breast was used. That resulted in a dull taste and texture, even though the meat was well marinated. I was looking for the rich flavour and juicy texture of a chicken thigh. Saving grace, as I had said, was that the meat was well marinated and decently spiced, so was the peanut sauce. Compared with Singapore-style satay, this was miles away from being the best chicken-on-a-stick. 7.5/10
Grilled pork neck. These were pieces of pork neck that had been marinated heavily in fish sauce and tamarind juice, amongst some other spices. While it tasted ok, I would have preferred more hearty slices of pork and abit more charring, because this tasted a little like a pork stir fry. 7/10
Stir-fried morning glory. Some greens to balance out the meal. Competantly done, but otherwise nothing special. 7.5/10
Cheese burger. Dense cake-like bread. Sinewy patty with lots of tendons throughout. Processed cheese slice. Do yourself a favour and don’t make the same mistake we my buddy did. 3/10
Seafood Thai-style Spaghetti. Possibly one of the most vile thing I tasted in Phuket. It was more sweet than salty, and had a overpowering Thai herb flavour that tasted like medicinal oil. This was so bad we simply could not eat it. 1/10
Signature Nikita’s Pizza. The signature pizza, thankfully, was excellent. Lovely thin crust with loads of mozzarella, crab meat, anchovies and salami. Simple combination, perfect execution. I really want to taste this again. 9/10
Mango sticky rice. Of course, one has to have the obligatory mango sticky rice. Unfortunately, I’m not that big a fan of this dish, as a dessert. I feel that the glutinous rice is too heavy after a heavy meal, and the potential of the dessert had dropped because of us already being stuffed. That said, the mango was marvellous. Paired together with the rice and coconut milk, one enjoys a mix of salty, sweet and sour flavours in the mouth, together with a cool smooth and clean texture of the mango juxtaposed against the warm sticky rice. It’s quite profound, and I would eat more of it if I didn’t already had a heavy meal. 8/10
Long story short, Nikita’s is a very decent restaurant serving very decent Thai food at very reasonable prices, cheap even. Great Thai food at renowned establishments is not common, and Nikita’s is one exception. Just don’t order the burger, steaks and pasta. Shame on you us for doing so. It’s worth checking out if you happen to visit or pass by the Rawai area.