“The food service industry had a particularly tough go of it this year, but despite that multiple new restaurants got off the ground and really stood out.”
Baan Lao’s “Super-refined Thai tasting menu. At $190 per person, it’s an haute, elevated experience but there is no problem filling seats.
Owner and chef Nutcha Phanthoupheng trained at a two-Michelin star restaurant under a Thai Iron Chef and at a one-star under a former chef for the Thai royal family.”
“I certainly didn’t love all the dishes at this formal, staggeringly expensive, Michelin-star-seeking Thai restaurant on the Steveston waterfront.
Perhaps that’s because the rest paled in comparison with this dazzling, diminutive appetizer – more of an amuse bouche, quite frankly. Lilliputian morsels of fresh green papaya were carved into cylinders, tossed in zesty lime dressing, adorned with an itsy-bitsy bouquet of edible flowers, cucumber and bird’s eye chili appliquéd with tweezers. It was set on a spoon in a thimble of tomato water that exploded with a pinpoint balance of sweet, salty, spicy and sour notes. It was an unforgettable bite, but a hard act to follow.”
“A recent addition to the Richmond scene is the ambitious Baan Lao Fine Thai Cuisine, which offers an exquisitely presented, nine-course tasting menu as an ode to royal culinary tradition of chef-owner Nutcha Phanthoupheng’s home country.
Meals feature extravagant presentations starting with a table-side performance by a barefoot Thai dancer, and optional tea pairings from the in-house tea sommelier match the leisurely dinner course-for-course.”
“At ease in her pristine white chef’s coat and hat, Chef Nutcha Phanthoupheng glides ethereally from table to table at Baan Lao Fine Thai Cuisine in Vancouver.
She has just spent the past 12 hours preparing her signature nine course dinner for a sold-out crowd, yet her demeanour is calm and relaxed. Greeting each of her sated guests with a smile and friendly conversation, she graciously accepts their applause and accolades.”
“After my first visit to Baan Lao, I came to appreciate how this suburban restaurant did exceedingly well in this year’s Golden Plates awards voted on by Georgia Straight readers. They chose Chef Nutcha as the chef of the year only one year after Baan Lao opened.
In addition, the restaurant was honoured as the best restaurant overall, best new restaurant, best fine-dining establishment, best Thai restaurant, and best hidden gem. It’s the closest that any restaurant can get to a clean sweep in the Golden Plates.”
“Have you ever had dinner in a dream?
You know, that dream dinner where you’re seated in a sunlit room by the seaside, served courses of small plates styled to impossible perfection in artistry, but most importantly are delicious, with some dishes arriving (literally) on a cloud to your table?
That kind of dinner dream is an actual reality at Steveston’s Baan Lao Fine Thai Cuisine.”
“…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.”
Chef Nutcha Phanthoupheng is using her background as a former nurse and cancer researcher to create fresh, elegant, and authentic Thai dishes at her new restaurant in Richmond’s Steveston community.
“We want to trace where all of our food comes from – land, sea, and farm to table,” explains Baan Lao on its website. In fact, Baan Lao supports its philosophy by indicating where all of the restaurant’s ingredients come from, like the organic rice they use, which was grown on the family’s rice fields in Khon Kaen, Thailand.”
“Phanthoupheng buys poultry and beef from Sumas Mountain Organic Farm, an SPCA-certified farm. The chicken, marinated 24 hours with a blend of 17 herbs and spices, was tweaked for flavour it until it passed an important test — the thumbs up from her daughters. “Our kids are very fickle and they are our guinea pigs,” she says. The chicken dish seduces one regular into ordering it every two or three days.”
“She’s been swamped with orders on the weekends, and that’s not surprising as she applies the same stubborn attention, precision, patience and aesthetics to the takeout as she does with her fine-dining menu.”
“We rarely head to Thai restaurants for the wine. Then again, few Thai restaurants have hired the Best Sommelier of the Americas (2018) to create their wine list. Baan Lao, a new high-end Thai restaurant in Steveston, is that exception. Quebec-based Master Sommelier Pier-Alexis Soulière has pulled together a selection of wines heavy on B.C. and international labels, all designed to complement the complex sweet-sour-salty-spicy cuisine of chef Nutcha Phanthoupheng.
This is elevated Thai as we have rarely, if ever, seen in Vancouver, served with elegant theatricality in a beautiful riverside setting. The evening opens with a Thai dancer and then waltzes through an opulent nine-course menu with optional wine or tea pairings.
Dishes burst with bright, fresh flavours, many of them courtesy of the living wall of fresh herbs. Ingredients are organic and, whenever possible, local. Among the most memorable dishes are the signature sockeye salmon, which comes topped with caviar and gold leaf, and the pad Thai, which is wrapped in a lacy egg cage that is almost too beautiful to eat. (But eat it anyway.)
Thailand may be off the itinerary this summer, but Steveston is definitely, and deliciously, within reach.”