from “West Seattle 101” by Lori Hinton
(updated with additional information 3/08)
At the end of the West Seattle Bridge, on the corner of 36th and Genesee, a beautiful, little restaurant is in full bloom.
Welcome to Buddha Ruksa Thai Cuisine.
Pronounced â€œpoot-ta rucksuw,â€ the name signifies a Thai flower similar to the gladiola. It translates literally to â€œsafe and well under the protection of Buddha.â€ The elegant red blossom is also the favorite flower of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, whom the restaurant honors by choosing this name.
Along with the flower comes royalty, simplicity, and some of the most uniquely prepared Thai food in the neighborhood.
Buddha Ruksa, founded by Anucha â€œNuiâ€ Onongard and Michael Hootman, opened in January of 2003. Hootman is a Boeing employee with a love for food and a knack for the business side of the venture. Onongard hails from Lopburi, Thailand, just north of Bangkok. He provides years of experience in Thai restaurants as well as a handful of family recipes.
Onongard moved to Seattle in 1993. He first worked for a Thai restaurant in West Seattle and then served and managed for nearly eight years at the Noodle Studio on Broadway. A resident of West Seattleâ€™s Pigeon Hill neighborhood, Onongard purposely built his restaurant just minutes away from his home.
The restaurateur chose West Seattle for two reasons. â€œRestaurant work requires many hours, and I wanted work to be close to home,â€ he says. â€œAlso, West Seattle is a very good neighborhood with sweet people and a real community feel.â€
The menu is inspired largely by Onongardâ€™s mother, who still resides in Thailand. â€œMy mom is a very good cook,â€ grins the proud son. â€œMy sister Anita moved over here to be my cook and uses those same recipes.â€
Sure, Buddha Ruksa serves your typical swimming rama and multicolored curries, but the presentation is impeccable (check out the gorgeous lotus shaped garnishes) and there are also a few of â€œmomâ€™sâ€ items here you wonâ€™t find on other Thai menus. For example, two appetizers are straight from the Onongard home. Prawns in a Blanket are garlic-and pepper-marinated prawns wrapped in a spring roll, deep- fried golden brown, and served with a sweet garlic-chili sauce. Kra-Thong-Tong features golden pastry cups filled with curried ground chicken, shrimp, and vegetables, and is served with a cucumber salad.
Besides everyoneâ€™s favorite pad thai, Onongard says the crispy garlic chicken sautÃ©ed with basil is a real hit (this dish has also earned the local reference â€œcrack chickenâ€ because itâ€™s so deliciously addictive). With a new special every month, Onongard aims to keep things fresh and interesting while experimenting with new flavors and styles one week at a time.
The diverse flavors of salty, spicy, sweet, and sour only complement the Zen simplicity of Buddha Ruksaâ€™s traditional Thai decor.
Also, keep your eyes out for the restaurantâ€™s new additionâ€”a cocktail lounge that will be ready to serve special Thai concoctions in just a couple weeks.
So check out the Thai restaurant named after the beautiful little flower. Chances are youâ€™ll leave your meal also feeling â€œsafe and well.â€
What: Buddha Ruksa Thai Cuisine
Where: 3520 SW Genesee St, 206.937.7676
When: Tuesdayâ€“Friday: Lunch & dinner 11 am-10 pm; Saturday & Sunday: dinner 4 pm-10 pm; closed Monday
Price: EntrÃ©es from $8.25â€“$16.95
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