A SYMPHONY OF FLAVORS IN HISTORIC CHARLES TOWN
ARTICLE BY LAURA EMMONS
PHOTOS BY JOSH TRIGGS
Thai cuisine is defined by its unique juxtaposition of flavors, i.e., sweet and sour, spicy and creamy, salty and sweet. Renowned expert on Thai cuisine and Australian chef, David Thompson, observed that “Thai cuisine is the juggling of disparate elements to create a harmonious finish. They delight in the complexity.” People experienced in Thai food will tell you that the dishes at Sumittra Thai Kitchen and Bar is authentic, complex and harmonious.
Located in the Downtown Charles Town Historic District, Sumittra Thai Kitchen and Bar offers elegant dining of authentic Thai cuisine. Business partners and restaurant owners, Jittisak Phakum and Moo Rung, opened the restaurant on July 20, 2016 following five years of success at their other business, Sumittra Thai Cuisine, in Frederick, Maryland. Sumittra has a full bar with a well-lit dining room up front. The middle of the restaurant combines minimalist decor with romantic lighting and artwork made from exotic woods and gold that depict scenes of ancient Thailand. The back of the restaurant is available for private parties. By next spring they expect to open their rear patio for alfresco dining.
DEDICATION TO QUALITY
Eighty percent of the menu is the same as their restaurant in Frederick, MD. However, even though the management staff is the same at both restaurants, the head chef in Charles Town, Yuthasak Thanavan, also called Chef Tang, trained at a culinary school in Thailand and brings his own ideas for signature dishes. New items are added to the menu frequently.
They use organic and locally sourced produce. All of their dishes, including the signature sauces are made from scratch. They offer a full vegetarian menu that meets strict vegan standards. They do not use preservatives, such as MSG. Nor do they add fish sauce to their vegetarian dishes.
Thai food is meant to be shared around a large table, and the cuisine, portion size, presentation, and number of courses at Sumittra reflects those ancient traditions.
They generally prepare dishes according to a 0 – 3 spicy-hot (Scoville) rating, but can vary the amount of heat in the dishes as requested by the customer. For those who enjoy food that is very hot, they can serve a chili tray on the side.
A PERFECT LOCATION
Jittisak, also called Jib, was influenced by his mother, who was a head chef in Thailand. She brought her culinary expertise to the United States. Jib carried the tradition to his restaurant in Frederick. Moo became a partner in the business, and now they have two restaurants in Frederick and Charles Town. Moo is excited about the new restaurant.
Jefferson County is growing and changing rapidly and can benefit from having more diverse fine dining options. When they found the perfect location in the heart of the downtown historic district, they knew it was the right place for Sumittra Thai Kitchen and Bar.
Right now they are focused on establishing their lunch and dinner menus. They also provide takeout service, accommodate private functions, and sell gift certificates. Their newest offering is a Happy Hour, which occurs Monday through Thursday from 4:30 PM to 6:30 PM. Happy Hours includes a small menu of unique and delectable appetizers, drink specials and a full bar. The take-out service is suspended during Happy Hour.
Moo says the best thing about his job and this restaurant is meeting new people in a new community. They show him the local culture and he teaches them about Thai food. Every day poses different challenges and he looks forward to all of them. Satisfying customers with high quality food, excellent service and a pleasant atmosphere are the goals at Sumittra Thai Kitchen and Bar.
During my visit to Sumittra Thai Kitchen and Bar I sampled a number of signature dishes. From the appetizer menu I had the Curry Puff and the Sumittra Dumpling. The Curry Puff was a mixture of minced chicken and potato filling seasoned with onion, garlic and spices in a flaky puff pastry, served with a marinade of cucumber, red bell pepper, red onion and a sweet and sour vinaigrette. The Curry Puff had an earthy taste, with melt-in-your-mouth goodness. The marinade had the same purpose as chutney would in Indian cooking. That tangy flavor of the marinade made the Curry Puff explode with flavor.
The Sumittra Dumpling was a pork, chicken and baby shrimp filling steamed in a thin wrapper similar to a won ton but shaped like a small pot.
It is served with a sweet black soy vinaigrette. The Sumittra Dumpling had a nutty and spicy flavor and the black soy vinaigrette was thick and sweeter than a commercial Tamari sauce. Together they were a hearty meat dish in a small package.
My new favorite soup is the Tom Kha Soup with Shrimp, which is made with a combination of creamy coconut milk and galangal, a type of spicy ginger root, white button mushrooms, jumbo shrimp and fresh cilantro. Tom Kha can also be made with tofu, vegetables or chicken. The creaminess combined with the spice and cilantro makes an unforgettable flavor.
From the entree menu I tried the Panang Curry with Chicken and the Moo Yang. The Panang Curry is a creamy sauce made with coconut milk, yellow curry and secret ingredients. This dish can be made with vegetables, tofu, chicken, shrimp, or beef. It is served with jasmine rice and steamed broccoli.
Unlike Indian curries, Thai curry is less spicy, but more flavorful. I enjoyed the curry a great deal because it was not hot spicy, but more of a comfort food type dish.
The final entree I tried was Moo Yang, a Thai-style marinated and grilled pork loin. It was served with a salad comprised of green papaya, carrots, tomatoes, green beans, and other salad greens in a sweet and sour dressing, jasmine rice with toasted sesame seeds, and a signature tamarind sauce made with sugar plums, chili peppers and rice powder.
Moo described the Moo Yang as being similar to the street food in northeast Thailand. However, there is nothing about this succulent dish that invokes memories of street vendors. Like everything else at Sumittra Thai Kitchen and Bar it is a symphony of flavors which excites the palate and satisfies the stomach.
Sumittra means best friends in Thai, and they hope you’ll think of them as friends you’d like to visit for special occasions or for everyday delights. Sumittra Thai Kitchen and Bar is open Monday through Saturday. Lunch is served from 11:30 AM to 2:30 PM.
Dinner is served from 4:30 PM to 9:30 PM. Happy Hour is available Monday though Thursday from 4:30 PM to 6:30 PM. Reservations are always a good idea when planning a visit to Sumittra Thai Kitchen and Bar. It is highly recommended that reservations be made for Friday or Saturday nights. The back room can support private events up to twenty five people, but reservations for large parties should be made at least two to three days in advance.
Sumittra Thai Kitchen and Bar is located at 213 West Washington Street in Charles Town. Call them at (304) 885-8747. To see hours, special events and their wonderful menu, visit their web site at www.sumittrathaiwv.com.
Sumittra Thai Cuisine in Frederick is located at 12 East Patrick Street and features a Sushi bar upstairs. Reservations for Sumittra Thai Cuisine can be made at (301) 668- 2303 and their menu is located at www.sumittra.com.