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Shayn Prapaisilp Chao Baan

Shayn Prapaisilp, co-owner of the new Grove Thai restaurant Chao Baan.

Photo by Ian Froeb, ifroeb@post-dispatch.com

Shayn Prapaisilp knows that options now abound for the style of Thai restaurant his father, Suchin Prapaisilp, introduced to St. Louis nearly 40 years ago. What, the younger Prapaisilp wonders, will make a Thai restaurant destination dining in 2019?

“For me, it's always been the food that we've always cooked at home (with) my aunts, my grandma,” Shayn Prapaisilp tells Off the Menu. “It's Thai food from the northeast and the south, where both my parents are from.”

These regional Thai cuisines are the focus of the Prapaisilps' new restaurant, Chao Baan, which opens for dinner today (June 26) in the new Chroma development at 4087 Chouteau Avenue in Forest Park Southeast's Grove district.

Much of the Thai food in St. Louis is the fare of central Thailand, but Shayn Prapaisilp believes St. Louis is ready for the regionalization of Thai cuisine, just as St. Louis already appreciates the difference between the cuisines of Sicily and northern Italy.

When friends return from travel to Thailand, he says they tell him, “'There's really not the food we ate in Thailand here.'”

Prapaisilp's father is from Yala, Thailand's southernmost province. His mother, Sue, is from the northeast province Loei. Chao Baan highlights the cuisines of both regions.

Southern Thai cuisine features dry heat, lots of turmeric and influence from neighboring Malaysia, Prapaisilp says. Northeastern Thai cuisine, on the other hand, is marked by more funk, more shrimp paste and more fermentation.

As a standout southern Thai dish from Chao Baan's menu, Prapaisilp points to gaeng som, white fish in a broth with turmeric, garlic, chile and lime.

“It's super spicy till you eat it with rice,” he says. “But then it's perfect.”

From the selection of northeastern Thai dishes, Prapaisilp is excited about khao tod nam sod, twice-fried rice served with fish sauce, lime, herbs and pork sausage, which has been the “biggest hit” at friends-and-family trial meals.

What unites Chao Baan's menu, Prapaisilp says, is that it is the sort of food cooked at home and shared with everybody. The restaurant's name means “food of the people.”

As for Chao Baan's beverage program, Prapaisilp says, “This cuisine is a beer-drinking cuisine.”

There will be both Thai and American beers. The wine list will favor whites and lighter body reds.

For cocktails, Prapaisilp says, given the options already present in the Grove, “We didn't feel the need to reinvent the wheel.” The bar will feature riffs on classics with Thai ingredients, like a whiskey sour made with tamarind.

Chao Baan will be open for lunch and dinner daily. Lunch service begins next week. The phone number is 314-925-8250.