Sneak Peek: Pakpao Thai Opens, Brings Affordable Asian Cuisine to the Design District

Louk Chin Kai – ground chicken meatball, coriander seed, kaffir lime leaf, yellow curry (photography by Kyle Pennington)

At 3 p.m. yesterday, owners Richard and Tiffany Ellman (Oak, Belly & Trumpet) hustled to get their newest Design District restaurant ready for dinner service. I’m happy to report that Pakpao Thai – the Asian restaurant we’ve all been waiting for – is finally open. All of you can go crazy now. Merry Christmas, happy new year, and happy birthday!

The Ellmans and their executive chef, Eddy Thretiphuangsin, have created a unique menu that you’ve probably never seen at other Thai restaurants. “The inspiration basically is.. we tried to include all different regions of Thai cuisine,” says the jolly Eddy T. (He said I could call him this after I mispronounced his last name a couple times.) “Thailand’s cuisine – think of it as NYC. It’s a melting pot – Chinese, Laos, Burma. Each region has a different influence from a neighboring country. We’re taking a chance to do something bold that no one else is trying to do.”

Mou Pa Lorw – braised pork belly, pickled daikon and mustard green, cinnamon, star anise, soy
Chef Eddy Thretipthuangsin (left); pakpao = kite (right)
These pakpaos and chulas, made by an elderly Thai man, were handmade and shipped over to the United States

Typically, says the chef, diners don’t linger in most Thai restaurants. They eat and leave. And that’s why Pakpao Thai is different. Thretipthuangsin, born and raised in Thailand, has mixed his native country’s street food and fine dining dishes into a style that is (1) affordable (2) all about presentation and (3) makes you sit, savor, and enjoy.

“You shouldn’t be able to eat anything and say that it doesn’t have a lot of flavor,” says Richard Ellman.

This is exactly how Thretipthuangsin’s likes to cook. The Ellmans hired him for his bold flavors, beautiful plates, and impressive resume. The Thai execuchef worked at L’Orient in Naples, Florida, and he’s cooked for the royal Thai family on numerous occasions while Princess Bajrakitiyabha attended Cornell Law School. Craziness.

These neat little touches decorate the walls
These neat little touches decorate the walls

Threptipthuangsin moved to Dallas two days ago, officially, to start his job at the Design District space, right next to Oak. John Paul Valverde and the Ellmans collaborated and spent months planning its elegant look of soothing grays and greens. Pakpao and chula kites, handmade by an elderly Thai gentleman, hang down from the ceiling. Wooden tables line up in front of an open kitchen, where you can watch the Pakpao team work on your plates. To the right is a bar, where diners can also sit and eat. In total, there’s room for about 45 guests. Once the patio is set up, more seats will open up. Those lucky patio people will definitely experience an authentic lunch or dinner at Pakpao. When you’ve got the sun beating down your back and you’re already sweating from massaman curry, welcome to the country of Thailand.

For anyone new to Thai cuisine, Threptipthuangsin suggests you start off with these four items:

1. Mou pa lorw (braised pork belly)
2. Kae yang (grilled rack of lamb)
3. Neua massaman (braised short rib with massaman sauce)
4. Pla Pad giung chai (crispy fish, soy bean paste, onion)

PakPao Menu – June 2013