September 17, 2011

Taste of Thailand comes to Farmington

FARMINGTON -- Chaiwat Kloythep sees himself as a mixture between restaurateur and teacher.

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Chaiwat Kloythep and his wife Suppattra have opened Thai Smile & Sushi Restaurant at 103 Narrow Gauge Square, Farmington.

Staff Photo By David Robinson

The 42-year-old opened Thai Smile & Sushi Restaurant in Farmington on Sept. 1, and since then he has been busy introducing customers to the flavors, family recipes and cooking styles from his native Thailand.

"There was no Thai food and no sushi in town and that got me interested because I like to teach people about the food," he said.

Kloythep picked the rural northern Franklin County town, which is home to University of Maine at Farmington, as his most recent attempt to educate Mainers about the unique cuisine. He opened his first restaurant 12 years ago in Biddeford and added a second location in Kennebunkport three years ago, with both sharing the name Thai Siam and Sushi.

At his newest location at 103 Narrow Gauge Square in downtown Farmington, Kloythep described ingredients from ginger and mint to kaffir lime and coconut milk that are used in the dozens of menu choices at his restaurants.

He has an educational pamphlet that lists the many health benefits of the fresh herbs, spices and other components of Thai cooking. Kloythep goes over the list with curious patrons who sometimes have misconceptions about the exotic names for the appetizers, entrées and sushi dishes, he said.

"People get confused by Thai food. They think it's all spicy and that for sushi everything is just raw fish," he said.

While some choices are indeed spicy or include raw fish, there are many dishes with a combination of sweet and savory flavors that are favorites among longtime customers, according to Kloythep.

Pad Thai, for example, is a noodle dish with egg, bean sprouts, scallions and ground peanut that has a choice of everything from tofu to seafood, he said.

As for sushi, there are tempura dishes which are fried seafood and many different rolls -- typically fish, vegetable and rice rolled together -- that have cooked seafood.

"First they try the food and then they learn to love it," he said, referring to people who may be reluctant to try new things.

Kloythep moved with his wife and four-year-old daughter to Farmington and hired 15 employees for his newest restaurant, which features a lounge and dining area with seating for about 60 patrons.

There is also an outdoor patio shaded by trees and overlooking the nearby Narrow Gauge Cinemas parking lot. Kloythep decided to open in Farmington because of the vibrant downtown business district and active college community nearby, he said.

Kloytheo arrived alone in Los Angeles from Thailand in 1988, and spent years learning the restaurant business before opening his own place.

He slowly worked his way cross country toward New England and decided Maine was the place to realize his dream of opening restaurants that serve the food of his homeland, he said.

"You have to learn and experience and that is how I started my dream, but it wasn't easy to do and I brought it to Maine because it was the perfect place for me," Kloythep said.

David Robinson - 861-9287

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