January 21, 2011

Busaba serves genuine Thai food in Louisville

LOUISVILLE – Shan Phairatphiboon and her brother, Oak, have worked in their fair share of Thai restaurants – all of which are now closed due to financial challenges.

So they know, firsthand, how difficult it is for a restaurant to succeed, especially in this economy. But when their most recent employer shut down, they knew the time was right to open Busaba Thai in Louisville.

“We’d been thinking about it for a long time, but nothing (until then) really pushed us to do it,” Phairatphiboon said.

Phairatphiboon, who owns Busaba Thai with her brother and mother, knows that to stay afloat her restaurant has to distinguish itself from all the other Asian eateries in Boulder County. She never understood why Siamese Plate – which previously occupied the same storefront where Busaba Thai now operates – served sushi.

“We only want to do things we can do really well,” instead of infringing on other cultures’ cuisine.

And Phairatphiboon’s mother, Cat, does really, really well with Thai dishes.

“Mom is the one with the recipes,” Phairatphiboon said

Back in Thailand, she used to sell cakes and other sweets, but when the family moved to the U.S. about 14 years ago, friends who tasted her mealtime cooking begged her to open a restaurant. “We try to make it as good as we would at home,” Phairatphiboon said. “Some people might make things more to suit an American palate – but we try to make it as close to what we eat at home as possible, so you get an idea of what food would be like in Thailand.” For example, the basil chicken is made with ground chicken, not the chunks of chicken breast that Americans seem to prefer in everything from McNuggets to boneless “wings.”

That’s not to say the food adheres to a strictly traditional menu, however. “I think we put some creativity in some of our dishes – things you might not find in other restaurants, like our som tum (salads).” Traditionally, som tum is a bed of shredded green papaya, with long beans, tomatoes, fish sauce and peanuts. At Busaba, the papaya is fried, giving it a satisfying crunch. For a sweet alternative in the warmer months, get the strawberry som tum – papaya salad topped with lime-soaked berries.

But Phairatphiboon admits that the restaurant’s lineup of curries steal the show – at least when it comes to sales. Drunken noodles and pad Thai lead the list of other customer favorites.

If the fresh, authentic flavors aren’t enough to distinguish the restaurant from its competitors, its atmosphere surely will. “I don’t think there’s one (nearby) that represents a really nice and chic restaurant for Thai food,” Phairatphiboon said. “Our décor is very modern, on the minimalist side. My sister is the one who redesigned the place, and she … got her bachelor’s (degree) in interior architecture in Thailand. She likes the minimalist, modern look – no clutter, open space – you feel more relaxed.”

Phairatphiboon acknowledges that Busaba Thai has already encountered a few operational glitches, but none of the sort that have sunk other restaurants. Her issues have involved making sure there’s adequate communication between the front and back of the house, that the computer system is working properly, and that it’s adequately staffed for busy periods. The latter, in fact, has been the restaurant’s biggest problem.

“Word of mouth has really spread throughout the office community in Louisville. We’ve been building up pretty quickly – more quickly than we really expected,” she said. So there are days, it seems, when all of the glitches hit at once. “But we have a lot of regulars who understand.”

With its comfortably upscale vibe, creatively authentic menu and convenient location, it’s likely to get even more regulars.

LOUISVILLE – Shan Phairatphiboon and her brother, Oak, have worked in their fair share of Thai restaurants – all of which are now closed due to financial challenges.

So they know, firsthand, how difficult it is for a restaurant to succeed, especially in this economy. But when their most recent employer shut down, they knew the time was right to open Busaba Thai in Louisville.

“We’d been thinking about it for a long time, but nothing (until then) really pushed us to do it,” Phairatphiboon said.

Phairatphiboon, who owns Busaba Thai with her brother and mother, knows that to stay afloat her restaurant…

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