East End Eats: Phao Thai Kitchen Returns to Sag Harbor
I am thrilled to report that I recently ate dumplings in Sag Harbor, and I'm craving more. The generously sized meat and veggie morsels came courtesy of Phao Thai Kitchen, which opens today next door to sister restaurant and local sushi standby Sen, and just across Main Street from where Phao generated hordes of fans until closing in 2002.
At a pre-opening tasting, we supped on a range of flavors largely absent from our local restaurant landscape. There was a sore-throat-curing lemongrass soup, spring rolls, and wok-charred squid—a very nice interpretation of the underappreciated local catch cooked on 100,000 BTU burners.
The chefs plan to tap Sen's existing seafood connections for local oysters, clams, fluke, black sea bass, and striped bass. For mains we slurped up drunken noodles, pad thai, two curries and a plate of cashews and tofu. Friends at nearby tables raved about the tamarind duck, a favorite dish in Phao's earlier incarnation. Phao offers some of the wide sake selection from Sen, as well as wine and beer.
According to executive chef Deena Chafetz, the restaurant group will soon be riffing on the vendor craze in New York, with specially designed carts that allow her chefs to bring sushi, dumplings, noodle and other Asian on-the-go traditions to parties and events. A cart specializing in the street food of Thailand may join the Sag Harbor and East Hampton farmers markets. In fact, Chafetz said the restaurant group is rolling out what it hopes to be a draw at event and catered affairs.
It's all welcome news after Champa's, the Indian takeout in Water Mill, closed last fall, and Sen Spice in Sag Harbor stopped serving this past winter. And let's all hope this provokes a rash of ethnic eats openings. Until then, I'll be glad to work my way through Phao's menu.
Phao Thai Kitchen
29 Main Street, Sag Harbor NY (map); 631-725-0101