Restaurant Review: The King and I Cuisine of Thailand (Rochester, NY)

Restaurant: The King and I Cuisine of Thailand in Rochester, NY
Restaurant: The King and I Cuisine of Thailand in Rochester, NY

As a frequent visitor to The King and I Cuisine of Thailand, I usually don’t pay much attention to the surroundings. However, in preparing to write this review, I took a fresh look at the location. The King and I is located in a small, but busy strip plaza, just south of Monroe Community College in Brighton, NY. The neighboring area is a blend of industrial and retail establishments, giving it an eclectic vibe. Ample parking is available in the well-lit, private lot immediately in front of the restaurant, just steps from the front door. In fact, if you happen to sit at a table in the front of the restaurant, you can see your parked car through the large glass anterior window.

The waiting area is shielded by a glass, double door entryway. It was a bit strange to see a pay phone just inside the first glass door, as they are so rare these days. The second glass door opens directly into the waiting area, furnished with comfortable upholstered bench seats, a small self-serve coat alcove, and a clear view of the parking lot – perfect for waiting for friends to arrive. The hostess stand is located to the left of the entrance, where incoming diners are greeted with a warm smile.

The layout of The King and I is open and roomy. The casual dining area is separated into thirds, each delineated by a half wall with arch cut-outs, but unified by multi-colored wall-to-wall carpeting. Upon entering the restaurant, one can see from one end to the other, making for a spacious feel. The front and back sections are set up with tables and chairs, while the main dining area in the middle has booths along the wall and tables and chairs in the center. White columns, a tray ceiling and chandeliers accent the main dining area. A narrow bar (no seating) is also set up along one wall in the main dining area. This open concept, although inviting and bright, can lead to a loud din which rises as the dining room fills up with patrons. The Asian-themed wall art, porcelain collectibles, and pottery all add to the authentic atmosphere.

On both visits (lunch and dinner), the restaurant appeared almost full. The King and I can accommodate private dining parties and banquets for up to 40 people.

The variety of menu fare is vast and varied. A single menu encapsulates both lunch and dinner options. I especially like that the inside front page of the menu includes descriptions of Thai dishes and seasonings and a guide to Hot and Spicy ratings (with a pepper graphic ranging from one pepper = Hot and Spicy to four peppers = Extra Hot and spicy). It is an excellent guide for the novice Thai diner. For example, “Phat Phet” is described as “green beans, bamboo and basil seasoned with a spicy chili sauce and a touch of coconut milk” and is shown with one pepper (Hot and Spicy).

Vegetarian options are available for lunch combination platters, dinner entrees, appetizers and soup. Non-vegetarian options are available for appetizers, soups, entrees, and Yum (salad). Sides include rice variations and sauce options. Both dine in and take out service is available. As is common in many restaurants with a take-out clientele, ordering can be done via a number assigned to each dish.

Beverages include Thai ice drinks, blender fruit drinks (non-alcohol, non-dairy), vegetable juices, a variety of teas, and soft drinks (soda, orange juice, milk). Alcohol service is limited to beer and wine only. A very limited dessert menu consists of only two homemade desserts. Each table is stocked with three self-serve glass jars of sauces, including an orange-colored chili sauce, a red spicy hot pepper sauce and a green more mild sauce. Soy sauce is also available upon request.

The lunch section of the menu features 32 popular combination platters, including 12 vegetarian options, ranging in price from $8.50 to $10.25. Dine in lunches include the soup of the day and steamed rice. A fried shrimp or vegetable spring roll can be added for $1 each for dine in customers. However, carry out luncheon platters include a fried spring roll and steamed rice, but not the soup.

I found it interesting that The King and I menu includes the following presumptuous note: “KINDLY ADD 15% OR MORE GRATUITY FOR YOUR SERVER, PLEASE. (15% gratuity will be added for parties of 5-14, 20% for 15 or more).”

I visited The King and I twice in one week. The first visit was with two co-workers during a weekday lunch hour, and the second visit was during a more relaxed Saturday evening pre-movie meal with a friend. During both visits, we were treated to rather large portions and steaming hot food.

For our lunch, my co-workers and I all ordered the same popular dish – Phat Thai Chicken ($9.25), offered with a cup of the soup of the day, which was chicken soup on that particular day. I would have preferred that we each order a different menu item, but alas I cannot force my wishes upon my lunch companions! However, each of us doctored our rice differently, using the trio of sauces on the table. Served with fine rice noodles with nuts and bean sprouts, the Phat Thai Chicken was quite satisfying. The sliced chicken was tasty and plentiful and the sauce was perfectly seasoned, rendering a sweet and tangy taste. The vegetables were cooked al dente, just how I like them. We all agreed that the delicious chicken soup was chock full of chicken and vegetables, and warmed us up nicely on a cold winter day.

The only aspect of our luncheon outing which could have been improved was that the dish included white rice along with the noodles, resulting in a double carbohydrate serving. Brown rice is available as a substitution, but still delivers extra carbs. Perhaps a small Asian themed salad would have been a nice substitute for the rice.

During my dinner visit, I ordered the Spicy Shrimp ($15.95) and a pot of hot tea ($2.00 per pot, refillable). Upon arrival to the table, the dish looked colorful and vibrant, featuring pink shrimp and a multitude of bright vegetables. The shrimp was cooked just right, proving to be tender, moist and flavorful. However, I was a bit disappointed that the tails were left on the shrimp, requiring me to awkwardly remove each one and coyly collect them on the edge of my plate. Perhaps this is a custom or a sign of a sophisticated entrée, but I would prefer that the tails be removed. Also, although the menu showed the heat of this dish as only one pepper, I found it to be uncomfortably spicy. In fact, I usually add red pepper sauce to my rice because I like it with a bit of additional heat – but not that night! The tea, although hot in temperature and quite tasty, was delivered in a small, white ceramic tea pot with a chipped spout. Regardless, I finished the entire pot of tea myself, and even asked for a refill.

My dining companion ordered her favorite Thai dinner dish, Sesame Chicken ($12.50). She especially liked the preparation of this dish at The King and I because it is not breaded or fried, resulting in a lighter version of the dish. It arrived hot and was a feast for the eyes. She reported that both the chicken and the sauce were flavorful and enjoyable, but the vegetables were far too few for the size of the dish. Before she ordered it, she specifically asked if this entrée included vegetables and she was told that they were included, at the bottom of the dish. However, she was disappointed that there were only a handful of broccoli florets and a bit of cabbage. She even noted to me later that she added more broccoli to the leftovers the next day.

We both agreed that the white rice served with dinner was not up to par with the rest of the meal. It was quite sticky and a bit dry. However, upon request, my dinner companion was graciously given a fresh serving of white rice to include in her take home container.

The wait staff at The King and I was, for the most part, friendly and welcoming. The host has a way of making you feel important, like a personal friend. My companions and I were greeted with a warm hello and quickly shown to our table on both visits. During the dinner service, our waitress appeared to be a bit curt at the beginning of our meal, but that may be attributed to a language and/or cultural barrier. By the end of the meal, she seemed much more amiable. The staff was very knowledgeable about the menu and happily answered our questions.

The food was served quickly and efficiently during both visits. So quickly in fact, that at lunch, our entrée had already arrived before we were done with our soup. Admittedly, this led to a feeling of being a bit rushed. During my lunch visit, I noticed that the staff was extremely attentive to refilling my water glass. However, during the dinner service, I did not experience that same quality service, as my water glass sat sadly empty for extended periods of time (a personal pet peeve of mine).

Upon leaving, we were afforded a friendly good-bye from the host, encouraging us to come back, and again making us feel like personal friends.

The King and I has recently been awarded the following local honors:
• 2013 Best Asian Restaurant in Rochester – City Newspaper
• 2013 Gold Winner Rochester Choice Awards – Rochester Democrat & Chronicle Newspaper

Overall Impression
I recommend this gem of a restaurant to all who are seeking a pleasant experience in Thai cuisine. While not overly pretentious, the wait staff is knowledgeable and efficient. Whether you have never experienced the joy of Thai food or if you are a confirmed Thai food aficionado, I suggest giving it a try!

If you go:
The King and I Cuisine of Thailand
1455 E. Henrietta Road
Rochester, NY 14623
Phone: 585-427-8090
Fax: 585-427-8288
Email: n/a
Facebook: n/a
Twitter: n/a

Business Hours: Mon-Thurs 11am –10pm, Fri 11am – 11pm,
Sat noon –11pm, Sun noon – 9:30pm
Cuisine:                      Thai, Asian, Vegetarian
Meals Served:             Lunch, Dinner
Children’s Menu:          No
Accepts Credit Cards:   Yes
Handicap Accessible:    Yes
Attire:                         Casual
Requires Reservations: Only for large parties
Table Service:              Yes
Take Out:                    Yes
Outdoor Seating:          No
Parking:                       free, in a shared lot directly in front of the restaurant
Valet Service:               No
Bar Seating:                 No
Alcohol:                       Beer and Wine only
Coat Check:                 No, but small self-serve coat room available
Date visited:                1-13-2014 lunch, 1-18-2014 dinner



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