Chef Eddy in the House
Pakpao features regional Thai cuisine, prepared by chef Eddy Thretipthuangsin, who was born and raised in Thailand. He moved to Dallas last week.
A graduate of Le Cordon Bleu, Thretipthuangsin (pronounced "three-tip-WANG-sin") comes from a restaurant family. He and his mother, Patty, owned a restaurant in Bridgehampton called M and E; last year he had a pan-Asian restaurant in Florida called L'Orient, featuring dishes such as pork belly with pickled daikon and Wagyu beef with Chinese broccoli.
"It's merging classical French technique with bold Thai flavors," says chef Eddy Thretipthuangsin.
When his mother and brother moved to Dallas, he wanted to join them. He contacted the Ellmans, offering a tasting of what he could do. They simultaneously realized that he embodied exactly what they were seeking: a Thai chef with experience in the fine-dining realm.
"I'm from Thailand, but I trained at Le Cordon Bleu, where everything is the classical French method," he says. "It's merging classical French technique with bold Thai flavors."
Pakpao, which means kite – and there are some hanging from the ceiling – is more authentic Thai than anything he's done for the past few years.
"I don't usually go to Thai restaurants in the United States," he says. "It doesn't matter where it is. It doesn't make me feel like home. It could be that I'm too critical because I'm a chef.
"But for years and years, whenever I went to Thai restaurants, I would always think, 'Why do we have to change or break away from our roots, or from the origin of the cuisine?' That's something I believe in."
Dish by dish
Chicken meatballs are something not commonly seen in other local Thai restaurants. Thretipthuangsin uses a recipe from his mother and grandmother that has coriander and lime. He serves them with a shaved cucumber salad and Thai yellow curry.
Steamed prawn with mung bean noodle and shiitake mushroom comes in a clay pot. The broth is heavy on ginger, but it's one of the less spicy dishes on the menu, an option for folks who don't want spicy.
Bamboo shoot salad is "classic Northeastern style Thai cuisine," Thretipthuangsin says. "But you see it everywhere. It's almost like a comfort food to us. The bamboo shoot has been pickled and cooked; its aroma and flavor is strong. You put it together with mellow flavors to get a good balance."
One thing he does that many other Thai restaurants do not: vegetables.
"Your classic Thai dish doesn’t come with vegetables," he says. "Barbecue chicken would maybe have a piece of cucumber. We came up with an assortment of seasonal vegetables, served with your choice of dipping sauce: roasted tomato, roasted chile, and roasted fish."
Desserts are beautiful, including poached pear with custard made from coconut milk, egg and taro root; and panna cotta with coconut forbidden rice.
"The panna cotta is like a Thai dessert that's been deconstructed," he says. "We cook the black forbidden rice cook in coconut milk. And we use pandan to make panna cotta. That's a custard that's usually served in a looser form, more like a dip or a fondue. I love that dessert, with the aroma of pandan. In the desserts is a place where you really see the combination of French and Thai together."