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Fit to be Thai'd

Coconut Thai opens in College Plaza


December 30, 2008

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    Nestled in the corner of the College Plaza shopping center, Coconut Thai Cuisine is a refreshingly modern, unique addition to the Statesboro restaurant scene.
    Coconut Thai’s interior is surprising, featuring young, modern décor with an Asian twist. But don’t let the edgy lighting, throw-cushion seats and clean, updated look fool you — this restaurant’s food is all tradition. Owners Calvin Phan, Anne Raiwa and Luke Tocharoen (Lang) have assembled a modern, relaxing restaurant featuring a menu full of unique Thai dishes, desserts and beverages to please all palates.
    The menu, created by Raiwa and Tocharoen (both chefs at the restaurant), lists dishes that include fresh vegetables and spices inspired by regional Thai cuisine. Thai food is different in that it is a combination of spices and elements from the countries surrounding Thailand, the end result being a unique combination of flavors from different cultures.
    Neither chef is a stranger to Thai cooking, as both have parents with restaurants in Thailand.
    “What they have learned from their parents, they are using here,” Phan said. “Anna is consistent, and wants to make sure that things are right all the time … if something is not correct, it isn’t served — that, for us, is very important.”
    The restaurant prides itself on keeping fresh, high-quality ingredients and creating new dishes and menu specials every day. In addition to the menu items served, Phan said that the chefs gladly cook to order.
    “We cook a lot of simple, basic stuff that anybody can eat or will like, but we can do specialty dishes,” Phan said. “A lot of people that come (to the restaurant) are professors that have worked in Thailand for a couple of years, so we will create the special dishes for them that they ask for.”
    Among the most popular dishes on the menu are the four kinds of curry ranging in spice from mild to hot. Patrons new to Thai cuisine, have no fear — the menu offers a “How Spicy is Thai Food?” guide ranging from one to four chili peppers, as denoted next to dishes throughout the menu.
    “When you say ‘Thai,’ the first thing that comes out of peoples’ mouths is, ‘Oh, it’s going to be spicy,’ so when we designed the menu, we tried to balance it out,” Phan said. “People actually love it … since we cook dish-by-dish and nothing is pre-made, (patrons) are not afraid to ask … you can specify how hot you want it to be.”
    In addition to the soups, salads and main courses on the menu, Coconut Thai has an impressive dessert menu set to satisfy even the most discerning sweet tooth.
    “We have a big dessert menu — people have come in just for the Fuji apple,” Phan said. The restaurant also has unique ice cream flavors including green tea and ginger, and cooks up fresh crème brulee daily.
    Overall, Coconut Thai is not a typical night out; it is a culinary adventure.
    “A modern twist restaurant with traditional Thai food…it is definitely something different,” Phan said.

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