Thank Cathareen Chang for the fact that you don’t have to go to Sydney or Bangkok to taste her father’s cooking. You need go no further than Krua Thai in St. Paul (651-224-4053, 432 West University Ave.) to try the recipes that Vat Pinipat, a retired attorney, learned from his mother, a cook long ago in Thailand’s royal court.
Pinipat has had restaurants before, but in an owner-manager-investor role: one in Sydney, when his work as a lawyer took him there 15 years ago, another in his hometown of Bangkok when he moved back in the late ’90s.
Then he retired from legal work, and in 2001, his daughter, a new graduate student at the University of Minnesota, invited her parents to move here. She knew that Pinipat was spending his days in the kitchen at home—cooking had been a lifelong interest—and encouraged him to open a restaurant with her in the Twin Cities, this time a place where he could be the chef.
Krua Thai has developed a modest but devoted clientele since it opened late that year, including Governor Tim Pawlenty, who stops over from the Capitol for an order of his favorite pad thai. Among the standouts on the well-executed menu of more than 100 items are a spectacular peanut curry, an exemplary green chicken curry with eggplant, a great rendition of the classic tom yum soup, and a refreshing papaya salad.
As for beverages, the City of St. Paul concluded, in its infinite wisdom, that with a liquor store right next door, there was enough sin and temptation in the neighborhood—no liquor license for Krua Thai.
That won’t keep you from having a good time. The Pinipats are serving the best Thai food in the Twin Cities. The family members who run the restaurant are some of the most hospitable and gracious people you’ll ever meet. Indeed, this is the kind of place that brings so much to a community that if Krua Thai opens a second location in Minneapolis, as the family is considering, the neighborhood it comes to will have more than great food to be thankful for.