I normally review restaurants that I’ve never been to before, but this week, I decided to revisit an oldie but a goodie.
The King and I Thai Cuisine is one of the most highly-rated Asian restaurants in Rochester. I’ve eaten at a lot of Asian restaurants around the city over the years, most of which I have loved. But The King and I has a little something special.
I’ve only been to the restaurant three times, and I can really only remember the most recent two visits in great detail. The staff was notably kind and accommodating both times. On my second visit, my group walked in not too far from closing, but we were still seated and served without being rushed. And this time, our waitress was happy to help my friend Jacob and I navigate the menu’s vegan options. With every new dish she brought out, she reassured us that everything was vegan, which was sweet, funny, and appreciated.
We started our lunch with fried vegetable rolls. One order only comes with two spring rolls, but the portion is just right for an appetizer. These spring rolls were much larger than I expected; they were more along the lines of what I typically think of as egg-roll-sized. The outside wrapper, though oily, was thin and crisp. And the vegetables rolled up inside had a satisfying fresh crunch. Size matters and so does substance, and The King and I accomplishes both with these vegetable rolls.
Our three shared entrees were also examples of both size and substance. Starting off with a classic, we had to include a phat thai in our lunch. Altogether, this phat thai was exactly the way you would hope it to be — warm and nutty, with bitter notes of acidic lime, which worked nicely. And The King and I doesn’t skimp on the good stuff. Our vegetable phat thai had plenty of noodles and hearty veggies to go around without too much “filler”— like bean sprouts and other garnishes which can get in the way of the main event.
To kick off our curry sampling, we were first presented with my curry pick: the wild curry vegetable. This curry has three white peppers next to its title on the menu (which restaurants often use to indicate a high heat level). I would say the heat was definitely prominent, but it was manageable if one enjoys spice, and it did not overpower the other flavors of the dish. Aside from general heat, this curry had a complex layering of many different spices, creating a concoction both fresh and hot, bitter and bright. I enjoyed every bite of it.
I also find the texture and viscosity of The King and I’s curries perfect. Recently, I had a Thai red curry that was a bit too runny, which made me appreciate The King and I’s craftsmanship even more. The sauce was rich without being too heavy, and it perfectly caoted the vegetables like a warm, silky blanket. And, speaking of which, the assortment of vegetables was really nice, with a variety of different flavors and textures, and also plenty of perfectly-fried tofu.
It is now time for what we both agreed was the star of the show: the phat phet vegetable. I had never ordered this curry anywhere, so I did not know what to expect. Our waitress recommended it to Jacob when he mentioned that he didn’t want too much heat, and it delivered the sweet coconut-y vibe that she promised. This curry was incredibly luxurious in texture. It was warm, silky, and ridiculously rich. The flavor palate was deep and vibrant as well, with an overall sweet coconut flavor enriched by a plethora of warm spices.
At every step of the way, I was excited by our lunch outing at The King and I Thai Cuisine. I was pleased with every dish we ordered. Other dishes that I can remember ordering and enjoying from my previous trips are the chicken satay, phat kee moun, and the “evil jungle prince” curry — all of which I would certainly recommend.
I tend to love trying new dishes each time I return to a restaurant, but I have to admit that it would be pretty hard to return to The King and I and not order the phat phet again. It’s definitely one of my favorite Asian dishes in Rochester thus far.
In the end, The King and I certainly lives up to its claim to royalty.