Local dining veterans may recall a Thai restaurant in Plano back in the late '90s called Tuppee Tong. Chef-owner Lilly Vichaichalermwong was known for preparing everything fresh to order, delivered to your table the minute it was ready.
Now she's back with Ari District Thai Bistro, a new restaurant she opened with her family in early 2020 in the Medical District, in a former sandwich shop at 2525 Inwood Rd.
Ari District is her reinvented vision of the Thai dining experience — a contemporary Thai bistro inspired by Bangkok's Soi Ari district, a neighborhood known for its eateries, cafes, and cool vibe.
The menu includes classics like pad Thai and chicken tom kha soup, as well as modern inventions such as the hipster "sando" in unusual varieties that include pork belly and ribeye.
There is also a category called "Bangkok street eats" that includes chicken wings and mu ping, aka moo ping, aka Thai grilled pork on skewers.
Lilly oversees the kitchen, and her daughter Julia oversees the front of the house.
"My mom definitely likes to have everything be very fresh," Julia says. "Our pad Thai is different from everywhere else. She is dedicated to freshness and quality in all of her flavors. There's no chicken stock, no MSG — she likes to be hands on with everything, and you can see that in our food."
After opening Tuppee Tong in Plano, the family moved to Kentucky where Julia's father got a job. Lilly opened another location of Tuppee Tong in Muncie, Indiana, and it's still open, but with a new owner.
After the family returned to Texas, Lilly opened Ari District, but only for a short time before the coronavirus struck. They closed their dining room in March, switching over to takeout only. Fortunately, their location in the Medical District makes them a popular resource for hospital employees and other personnel.
"We were considering reopening next week, we've been carefully watching the number of coronavirus cases to determine the right time to reopen," Julia says.
They are opening their dining room for special events on Saturdays, when they've been collaborating with other restaurants including a BBQ event they held in early October.
"We did dishes like a combination of brisket and pad Thai, and it was so successful that we're going to do more of those," she says.
They also host what they call "Ari Thai Market" on Saturdays, with a limited edition menu including:
- Khao Moo Dang (Thai BBQ Pork and Rice)
- Pad Thai Fried Shrimp and Scallop
- Bah-mi Hang Moo Dang (Dry noodle with BBQ Pork)
- Coconut-Sticky Rice stuffed Squid
- Ari Sandos
- Moo Ping skewers
- Coconut Pancake-balls (Kanom Krok)
"We invest a lot of time on cleaning, it's the one day for people to come out and enjoy visit our place," Julia says.
Meanwhile, their regular hours for takeout are Monday-Friday 11 am-2 pm and 5-8 pm, and Saturdays from 11 am-4 pm.