Back in early 2017, Twin Cities Thai fans got some exciting news: St. Paul's Bangkok Thai Deli was gearing up to open a sister location in the North End neighborhood.
It was a few years ago that Bangkok Thai rose to fame following an expansion to Minneapolis, not only for its quirky environs—the St. Paul outpost is housed within a former Burger King along University Avenue—but for consistently delivering some of the best Thai fare in the metro area and beyond. And while its popular Minneapolis sibling, Krungthep Thai on Eat Street, closed in 2016, the original rightfully enjoys the status of Frogtown cult favorite.
Today, Bangkok Thai’s second second location is abuzz, too. Also called Krungthep Thai, after the colloquial name of the Thai national capital, mother-son duo Waranyu (Ben) Saengthaweep and Glanthiga (Glan) Yamthongkam are in charge. Ben came to the U.S. with his mother and sister at age 16: “ We moved to the United States wanting to share with others our love for food, hopefully to own and to manage a family restaurant, and give back to the community,” he says. Together, the two crafted Krungthep Thai to be the fine-dining counterpart to Bangkok Thai, and it opened in August.
Far from the ghosts of fast food joints past (and the casual vibe of Bangkok Thai), the interior at Krungthep feels decidedly grand. With crystal-laden chandeliers overhead, gold figurines aplenty, and a palatial event space in the lower level, Krungthep couldn’t care less about keeping up “ethnic hole-in-the-wall” appearances for the sake of your ‘gram.
When it comes to the menu, Krungthep smartly carries over many of the popular, time-tested items from the original. From luscious five spice pork belly and creamy duck curry to piquant seafood papaya salad to tilapia fried just-so to issue the most satisfying snap upon being teased, it’s difficult to identify a dish that the chefs did not nail.
And with the addition of several Thai fusion pastas to the repertoire, Glan hopes to cater to an emergent audience: the children of Asian America. “Many children nowadays, whose parent or parents may be Asian, don’t want to eat rice always—they want pasta, but they still want the punch of flavor and spice,” she says. “I want to offer options.”
With 167 items total, many of which can be easily adapted to work around dietary restrictions, there really is something for everyone at Krungthep—even if you, like many American diners, are unwilling to shell out for Thai grub. The restaurant not only lavishes excellent Thai fare on Twin Citizens, but also advances a sensitive vision of fusion food and its possibilities—one that strives to consider the complex narratives of immigrants and their offspring, through food.
1141 Rice St., St. Paul