Dining Out

Tastes of Bunn Thai Bistro span generations

For Tommy Buraparat, the restaurant business is a family tradition that dates to a floating eatery on a Bangkok river

Special to The TribuneMay 22, 2013 

  • Bunn Thai Bistro

    968 W. Grand Ave., Grover Beach | 473-2824 | www.bunnthaibistro.com

    Hours: Lunch 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday through Tuesday; dinner 4 to 9 p.m. Thursday through Tuesday; closed Wednesday

    The scene: A tranquil, family-owned and -operated restaurant.

    The cuisine: Authentic Thai flavors in classic and new creations.

    Expect to spend: Most items about $10; some seafood entrées $16; lunch specials $8.50 for single item or try two for $9.50.

Bunn Thai Bistro has only been open a scant two months, but the history behind this restaurant reaches back almost two centuries.

As Tommy Buraparat explained, his great-great-grandmother began a restaurant on a floating raft on Bangkok’s main river. The business thrived for several generations and passed on through the family, and Buraparat “has memories of going with my mother to the market at 3 in the morning to get all the best things for the restaurant.”

When he and several other family members decided to make their way to the United States, they carried on the restaurant tradition in two other locations (both out of the area and no longer open).

In March 2013, Buraparat and his sister and brother-in-law started another in Grover Beach, because “we all just wanted to settle down somewhere close to the beach and do what we love to do,” he said.

Bunn Thai is right on busy Grand Avenue, but you’ll leave all that hustle and bustle behind when you step through the restaurant’s doors.

Settle on either of the tables in the stylish bar area or relax at one of several booths in the main dining room. Both rooms enjoy a tranquil atmosphere created by subtle pastels, rich earth tones and deftly placed artwork — including two original paintings done by the family’s niece in Bangkok.

In developing the menu for Bunn Thai, “we were very concerned about ingredients,” said Buraparat. “We wanted to focus on freshness and quality and offer healthy choices.” As a result, the restaurant uses free-range/hormone-free chicken, organic tofu and local produce whenever possible, and never uses MSG.

“We also prepare everything fresh to order,” added Buraparat, “so just tell us if you have special dietary needs like vegan, gluten-free or any other allergies.”

Not surprisingly, that from-scratch approach extends to all the sauces, soups, etc., so each dish has its own distinctive flavor.

The extensive offerings here include all the classics of this venerable cuisine, ranging from pad Thai to pad-see-ew noodles, Massamum to Panang curries, and pineapple fried rice to papaya salad.

Other Bunn Thai dishes that have already proven popular are as simple as a chopped kale salad with housemade miso dressing, as refreshing as strawberry or mango spring rolls, and as indulgent as “Heaven on Earth” — pan-seared tilapia (a mild white fish) topped with lumps of crab meat in a Panang curry sauce.

You’ll also find some other “Asian fusion” selections sprinkled throughout such as Kung Pao chicken and Mongolian beef, but be prepared for them to be a bit different than you’d get in Chinese restaurants.

To best experience the wide-ranging flavors of this menu, Buraparat suggested the traditional Thai way of having several dishes come to the table all at once, family-style.

Even appetizers such as soup are typically served together with the main dishes, as opposed to the Western tradition of separate courses. (The restaurant also offers a two-item lunch special that allows you to try a couple choices at once.)

Another authentic touch here is an array of condiments at the table such as chile flakes, organic soy sauce, a spicy sauce, and jalapeño vinegar. This approach allows each diner to adjust their own seasonings to their liking.

As Buraparat explained, even though the kitchen makes everything to order, including the spice level, “your ‘medium spicy’ might not be my ‘medium spicy’. This way, it’s exactly as you want it!”

Katy Budge is a freelance writer from Atascadero. Contact her at ktbudge@sbcglobal.net.

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