Peter Blake knows a thing or two when it comes to gauging success in the restaurant business and quickly changing things that don’t work well.
Relaxing on a quiet gray-and-breezy afternoon after lunch in his Tuk-Tuk Thai Food restaurant overlooking Back River from Shore Road, Blake gauges how his Thai food place is doing. He is generally satisfied.
“Pleased,” he said.
On the first Friday evening after opening in the place occupied by Holly Berries for years, Blake advised customers it would be an hour’s wait for sit down service in the dining room. Instead they could opt for orders via the steam table.
“Grab and go,” he said.
Then came the surprise. Diners opted to wait for dining room service and not indulge in the quicker “to go” menu.
“The steam table in the front wasn’t popular,” he said. “I was surprised. I wonder if there’s a stigma to it. People preferred to wait, so they did, and we decided to take the steam table down. But it’ll return in the spring.”
“We had started the day with six-to-eight different foods there, but at the end of the day it was still around,” he continued. “Like I said, I was surprised.”
Peter and William Blake, the cook who holds the fort in the kitchen, did not open Tuk-Tuk on a lark. It came after a general survey of restaurant offerings in Bourne. Today, Peter said, patrons tell him he made the right business decision. He said patrons have told him they are “tired of pizza” and that there is always more room for a quality restaurant.
And there is no mistaking Tuk-Tuk fare with that offered by Thai restaurants in Buzzards Bay and Wareham. The pad thai on the menu is the giveaway. Patrons with defining tastes immediately realize the Tuk-Tuk version derives from the northeast section of Thailand.
“It’s the significant dish in any Thai restaurant,” Peter said. “There are different ways to do it. It all depends on where the cook comes from. It’s the sauce and how it’s made. It’s popular with the noodles, peanuts, and vegetables. But it’s all in the sauce.”
One recent diner, a kickboxer who had competed in Thailand and ordered the Tuk-Tuk pad thai, knew right away where William was from.
“He knew the cook was from northeast Thailand,” Peter said. “He could tell. The sauce was a reminder. He had lived and worked there. He knew. He was right.”
The Blakes originally built a food truck in Sagamore and shipped it to the big island in Hawaii at Volcano National Park. They opened for business, kept the prices reasonable, served good food. and offered generous helpings.
“We had to keep the food good,” he said.
It is a restaurant mantra they follow with Tuk-Tuk. Mood is part of it all, of course, but the Thai food comes through. The spot is another foothold for Thai cooking on the Cape.
William, meanwhile, trained in the culinary arts in Hawaii and later worked in some of Boston’s bigger hotels, including the InterContinental Hotel.
“The stress level was through the roof there,” Peter said. “It’s the business. The Cape is different. It has a quality of life.”
“When we were in Hawaii, we missed the Cape,” he added. “In the Cape, we miss Hawaii with its island time.’’
The restaurant is named after the Tuk-Tuk three-wheeled vehicles so ubiquitous in Thailand. There are pictures galore of the vehicles on the walls.
When they start up they sound “tut, tut, tut,” Peter said.
Editor’s Note: Tuk-Tuk is open for business from 11 AM to 8 PM Tuesday through Sunday. The restaurant will close Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day. A beer and wine license, meanwhile, is likely to be awarded the restaurant in January.