Mom-and-son cooking team Sumalee and Chanapong “Chan” Tadathongkul have opened a Thai restaurant just off South Pine and South 47th streets near Tacoma Mall. It’s in the pale peach-colored building that’s the former home of Mekong Vietnamese Restaurant.
Baan Thai opened two weeks ago and is serving a small menu of Thai favorites, as well as a handful of dishes beyond Thai cuisine.
Here’s a first-bite report. It’s this paper’s policy to withhold criticism during a restaurant’s first month, which is why the focus here is on descriptions.
Second restaurant: This is the second restaurant for Sumalee, said family representative Percy Lagdan. He said Sumalee previously operated Mae Sumran Thai Cuisine at Freighthouse Square in the Tacoma Dome neighborhood. That restaurant operated near the coffee stand and across from Wendy’s, the Vietnamese restaurant.
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Before that: She cooked at Gig Harbor’s Thai Hut. Chan worked at a Thai restaurant in the Kent area. Another son, Nat, attends Tacoma Community College and assists in the dining room.
The dining room: Baan Thai looks virtually unchanged from its former home as Mekong Vietnamese (apologies, I don’t know what happened to that restaurant). The walls of the charming little dining room are still peach, the accent color is still sage and the wood floors and cushy chairs look the same.
On the menu: An abbreviated menu of barely three pages. Lagdan said Sumalee and Chan wanted to keep the menu as small as the restaurant. They also kept prices small. Everything is priced $8.95 or less. You’ll find seven appetizers ($4.95-$6.95); five soups ($7.95); four noodle dishes ($7.95 lunch/$8.95 dinner); seven entrees ($7.95 lunch/$8.95 dinner) and two fried rice dishes ($7.95 lunch/$8.95 dinner). On my visit, curry was advertised as “coming soon.”
Beyond Thai: There’s lumpia ($6.95); chicken teriyaki ($7.95/$8.95) and chow mein ($7.95/$8.95).
About that lumpia: The Filipino fried rolls are an unexpected find on a Thai menu and are worth ordering here. The wrapper shattered into crunchy shards. The crisp exterior broke to ground pork and water chestnuts, the stuffing mildly spiced with peppery heat. Served with sweet chili sauce for dipping ($6.95).
Try: Order the noodle dish pad see ew ($7.95 lunch) with broad, chewy noodles lightly sauced and served with wok-fried broccoli, carrots and tofu. Golden cashew nut ($7.95, lunch, comes with rice) was composed of pan-roasted cashews, chicken, carrots, celery, onions and peppers in a thin sauce. Thai basil with beef ($7.95 lunch, comes with rice) carried whole sauteed basil leaves, broad slices of beef and carrots, onions and green peppers.
Spicing: Modest. You’ll want to go high up the scale for the spicy stuff.
Baan Thai Asian Cuisine
Where: 2901 S. 47th St., Tacoma; 253-474-2728.
Hours: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays.