Wednesday, August 22, 2007

To-B-Thai... The Interview

Left to Right: Manit, Mi, Wat Charee holding Johnathan [Wat and Manit's baby].


126 Beverley Road


Amid the 99 cent stores, nail salons, and plethora of Chinese take-outplaces, Kensington has attracted a number of Thai restaurants to the area lately. We started with AM Thai Chili Basil on McDonald Ave, then Thai Tony's on Ft. Hamilton Parkway. We now introduce To-B-Thai on Beverley. There's been a lot of talk about whether we need another Thai and that spray painted sign. I decided to find out, at the same time meet the new owners (and their adorable baby) and get a scoop of what they're all about. The friendly couple, Manit and Wat Charee, and their partners were kind enough to set aside some time (after several days of little sleep) to welcome me and talk about their journey to Kensington. (On the side, they are looking for a 2-bedroom apartment in Kensington. If anyone knows of one, stop by at the restaurant and talk to either one. I don't know of the price range, but I'd guess something affordable.)

So first, welcome to Kensington!
Wat: Thank you!Do you live in Kensington? No, we will move from the Bronx to be here. Hopefully in a couple months. We are looking. But before, we lived in Washington, D.C. We move here 2 years ago.

How did you hear about this location or decide on this spot?
We are poor. We do too much work in a restaurant. And we have an idea. We want to open the restaurant. And we don't have much money.

So how did you decide on this Kensington location?
It was just an accident! A friend walked past here and saw the sign. And we always talk about opening a restaurant.

Have you ever run a restaurant?
No, only my husband's family has a restaurant in Washington, DC. After my friend saw the sign he called me and said, "The pizzeria is wanting to rent. Do you want to take a look?" We come over, my husband liked it.

What did he like about it?
He liked the location. He thought, it's on the corner, a lot of people walking. The stores around it. And we thought, there are no Thai restaurants.

Ah. And I assume you now know there are two other Thai restaurants?
After we did everything, we walked [around] and, oh, we saw them!So does that make you nervous? Nooo.. because they [AM Thai] only have one table.

Also, all the Thai locations are spread out in Kensington.
Yes. And in the end, after we know there are Thai restaurants out there, we know we have to make the price cheaper, good quality, clean, and really good service. First thing we want is really good service!

That's fantastic. Good service is a plus!
Mi sits down with us (a partner in the restaurant).

Hi! Thanks for joining us! So I noticed when I arrived, a couple of you were pointing to the sign. Is that changing soon?
Mi: Oh yes! We are changing that very soon! But as you know, a lot of money to open a business!

Yes I know! And you opened earlier than planned because you were starting to pay rent.
Wat: Yes. A lot of things we didn't know we had to spend money on. Because when we rent it, we just put money to landlord. We have to deposit for gas, deposit for insurance, equipment!

Well it's a tough business! And I applaud you. There are many people who feel it's too expensive and difficult to open a store here. Even myself! And here you are, almost having to send your baby back home to Thailand so both you (Wat and Manit) can work to make it here!So I was telling Wat about the other Thai places here.
Mi: Oh yeah! In the middle [AM Thai], that's my friend. They were the first Thai opened here. Because my friend live around here, he walked past every day, to the subway, he saw this place [Regina's pizza]. But we weren't sure because everything was so expensive. But we asked. And we got a nice landlord. They want to help us.

That's fantastic! (Mi is called away to cook.)You mentioned there were future changes, including the sign.
Wat: Actually we want to do something very nice. We will move in the counter a bit further to have chairs there. Move the other counter back for more room. We'll have really nice lights that shine up, light candles. I don't like too bright . But we want everyone to see us working. That's why everybody has to think about clean! Sometimes the kitchen closed, you don't know how dirty [it is]. I don't like it. I worked in the kitchen before. Sometimes, with a closed kitchen, something drop to the floor and they [other restaurants] pick it up and use it. You don't know that. But we want you to know! I say, if they can’t see you, you won't have anymore customer! I make it clean and clear. I like everything organized. Even my house!Manit arrives to sit down.

Nice to meet you! So you're both commuting from the Bronx?
Manit: Yes, subway is one hour and half. Every day, every night. Come and come back, 3 hours. Tired!
Wat: We're going to move soon here. Difficult with the baby and stroller to find a seat.

How do you like the neighborhood?
Wat: This area is very nice! I will take a walk a couple blocks with my baby. It's really quiet. Seems like everybody is friendly. Not like the Bronx! Everybody is noisy, yelling. You will know you are in the Bronx!

I was here with my friend and your desserts are amazing! Very unusual for an Asian restaurant to have desserts like chocolate cake. It's usually just some fruit or ice cream.
Wat: I was very afraid! Why you put chocolate cake on the menu! They're not going to eat your chocolate cake!

No, I really think it's a good idea! It makes you different and stand out. So what other things do you think helps you stand out?
Manit: I think our prices. We want customers to be happy and come back to eat. And we want good prices. Also our dishes have many herbs.

That's true. I had the Crispy Duck Salad and loved the mango and herbs. It was very fresh! You also have a great location. Big windows, good foot traffic to help you stand out.
Manit: Yes, we have been open 4 days and every day is busy! We opened 7 pm on Thursday and it was so busy! And the next day, it was raining, so it was busy again. But we worry about the customer. Because we want every customer to be happy. We don't want expensive food.

So what are your favorite dishes? Appetizer?
Wat: He thinks we have really good Pad Thai! And the Crispy Basil Duck. The Chicken Satay too. And the Thai Beef Jerky.

Thank you so much for your time! Welcome, and I wish you the best success! I think you will be doing well!
Thank you!

From Kensington coorspondent Mindy! Thanks Mindy for introducing us to To-B-Thai!