Adding to the Design District’s growing culinary cache (Oak, FT33, Off-Site Kitchen), a new Thai-food haven has opened in the space just behind Oak.
Pakpao brings cuisine from the Southeast Asian nation to life with an eye toward sticking to traditional ingredients, recipes and presentations, all in a modern, beautifully designed space. Co-owner Tiffanee Siri Ellman says the design is an integral part of capturing a specific vibe.
“The vibe that we are trying to create with Pakpao is social, energetic, hip, and stimulating to all the senses,” said Ellman, who co-owns Pakpao, Oak and Belly & Trumpet with her husband Richard, and John Paul Valverde. “We want our guests to see the smoke and action from the woks, smell robust and enticing spices, experience bold flavors and traditional ingredients and enjoy upbeat music while experiencing authentic (not watered-down) Thai cuisine in a modern presentation.”
And the owners teamed up with a chef who shares their vision. Eddy Thretipthuangsin, a Thailand native, wondered why so many purveyors of the cuisine seemed to prefer to Americanize it, rather than serve it up in genuine style.
“Well, it’s basically Thai cuisine,” he says. “The difference is our concept is focused more on the bold flavors, the authenticity of Thai cuisine. We’ve tried to bring Thailand into downtown Dallas. … Here at Pakpao, we really try to stay at the root and the originality of the flavors and the ingredients we use – you can’t argue that this is not Thai.”
And the dishes I sampled certainly spoke to the in-your-face flavor Thretipthuangsin is aiming to highlight. A tamarind egg starred a hard-boiled, deep-fried egg awash in a sweet glaze that complemented the creamy yolk brilliantly. The grilled shrimp salad with pleasantly charred, juicy seafood atop onion, cilantro and lemongrass was punctuated by the tang of keffir lime leaf. Although I didn’t get to taste it, a neighbor’s 48-hour braised beef short rib veritably fell apart under the fork. I wanted to reach out and steal!
Chef Thretipthuangsin’s zeal for the true flavors of Thailand extends to the restaurant’s bar menu, full of cocktails with fresh juices and Thai influences. I didn’t get a chance to sip one, which only means I’ll need to return to Pakpao with haste!
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