Hiding in the Fisherman’s Wharf, a brand-new restaurant called Baan Lao is just over 10 minutes’ drive away from downtown Richmond. Although it is only February 2021, I can guarantee you that Baan Lao is one of the most sought-after restaurants in Vancouver this year.
With its bright French windows and polished red-brick facade, you would think this is a subtle and elegant bar at first glance. Then, after a closer look, you suddenly recognize that you are standing in front of a Thai restaurant.
The decor inside the restaurant is also very different from traditional Thai restaurants. Although decorated with white tablecloths and hexagonal water glasses, you could still sense a hint of exotic charm.
Thai restaurant is not a rare sight in Vancouver, but probably none of the existing ones are better than Baan Lao in terms of details and interior design. Outside the windows, you could immerse yourself in the dazzling seaside view, enjoying the soft sea breeze and sea waves. The atmosphere after sunset brings an especially gentle feeling.
From plates to water glasses, all of the tableware is carefully selected. It is said that every single item costs more than 300 CAD. Even the seemingly ordinary-looking paintings on the wall are made by the only elephant in the world who could paint with its trunk, making the paintings even more valuable.
Looking around, I was so overwhelmed by this amazing place that I almost forgot my job today. What’s more, it is said that Chef Nutcha of Baan Lao was an apprentice of Chef Chumpol Jangprai, who not only served Thailand’s royal family, but also owns the most Michelin stars in Thailand.
Customers here could have the same meticulous and elegant dining experience as the Thai royalty as if they were enjoying Thai culture in Bangkok. Not only could they feast on delicacies as tasty as those in a two Michelin star restaurant, they could also have a sneak peek at the life of Thai royalty.
Altogether, there are 13 courses on the dinner menu, served in order of amuse bouche, appetizers, main dishes, lime sorbet, dessert and fruit luuk choop.
Before the dishes are served, you see beautiful performers dressed in traditional Thai golden and silver pencil skirts dancing around the table.
The novel experience of enjoying singing and dancing in the restaurant together with the golden afterglow of the setting sun on the coast seems to have the ability to slow down time and make it even more leisurely.
After the performance, the first dish, Maa Haw has arrived. It was served by a Thai waiter dressed in traditional costumes with a shoulder pole.
Then, the waiter put the dishes on the table, followed by the chef’s introduction to each dish. The service experience of the whole process definitely worth an A+.
The next dish, Maa Haaw is a classic Thai snack. It has pineapple as the base and a handmade pork meatball mixed with Thai spices and fried crispy peanuts. With one bite, the refreshing scent of pineapple combined with the salty meatball and nutty flavour of peanuts will leave you with an endless delicious aftertaste.
The main dish, Pad Thai, is the national delicacy of Thailand. Surprisingly, the chef makes the fried eggs into the shape of a bird’s nest. The crispy and crunchy cage made of eggs is put on top of the steaming hot fried rice noodles.
I don’t know if it is just me, but I tend to crave a certain kind of food during a period of time. I was craving Pad Thai during that time, so much so that I tried the Pad Thai of almost every single Thai restaurant in Vancouver.
The Pad Thai at Baan Lao has the original Thai flavour, sweet, sour and slightly spicy. There should be no soy sauce or oyster sauce. It tastes sweeter, sourer and more refreshing than the Pad Thai in smaller family restaurants and you wouldn’t be tired of it after devouring a whole plate.
According to the chef, in order to better restore the Thai flavour, the restaurant will make its own rice noodles in the future instead of using semi-finished products.
Next, it is time for Tom Yam Kung. I thought I couldn’t be surprised anymore after the performance and dishes served by waiters with shoulder pole.
However, the Tom Yam Kung cooked with a “coffee pot” still greatly amazed us. I heard that the chef learned how to make Tom Yam Kung in Thailand using the principle of “siphoning”, which makes her the only one who employs this method in Vancouver.
Fresh mint, lemon leaves, Thai coriander as well as lemongrass are put in the bottle. After being boiled, the soup at the bottom is fully mixed together with the spices before it flows back into the container.
Compared with the traditional method, Baan Lao’s Tom Yam Kung has more of a sweet, sour and slightly spicy taste, less spicy than other restaurants.
This dish might be a bit plain to you if you are a spicy food lover. However, if you prefer a sweet, refreshing, and only slightly spicy taste, then this dish is a must for you.
By the way, the chef used to be a nurse and nutritionist. She advocates the concept of modern organic and fresh food, and she even grows her own peppermint.
Apart from the 13 Thai delicacies on the menu, there are also wine pairings and tea pairings for you to choose.
Remember not to drive here if you are a wine lover. Not only does the chef of Baan Lao have a great master, the sommelier, tea sommelier and bartender also have impressive backgrounds.
The sommelier Pier-Alexis Soulière is one of the few people who are granted the title of Master Sommelier before the age of 30. (So far, 257 people around the globe have been granted the title, only 5 of whom are from Canada.)
Kaitlyn Stewart is the bartender here. She is the winner of the 2017 World Class Bartender of the Year. Her cocktail exclusively made for this restaurant has become the favourite of many cocktail lovers with its cool taste and tipsy effect.
For non-drinkers, Baan Lao also serves specially made hot tea and pour-over coffee.
The tea sommelier Emmanuelle Viennois is from France. She is certified by the Tea and Herbal Association of Canada (TAC).
After the meal, I felt that Baan Lao far exceeded my initial expectation in terms of the quality of the food as well as the level of service. Most expensive restaurants serve western or Japanese food. However, within the same price range, Baan Lao is the most down-to-earth one and makes me feel the most at home.
Compared with some fine dining where the waiters only ask how do you like your meal and is there anything I could do for you, Baan Lao’s service is more subtle and quiet, just like the Asians. People do not only try to please you, but you could feel that they want to offer you authentic Thai food, which is perfectly in harmony with the meaning of Baan Lao—our home.