Potsdam – Like many restaurants, Thai Cuisine closed its dining room at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 29 Maple St. restaurant has reopened. To dine at home after more than two years this week, modern change welcomes diners into a new era.
Owner and Chef Bank Soikum said: “Since the start of COVID we have closed all dining operations and have been eating out since then until recently.”
He said support from the community helped the Thai kitchen stay afloat while the dining room went dark.
“When we were open to fast food, we received a lot of support from our regular customers,” said Mr. Swicom. “They still come and order as usual, and even though the experience was not the same, everyone understood the conditions he went through, not just us, but a lot of local businesses, so I would like to thank the community.”
Mr. Soikum, who dropped out of high school at the age of 16 to help with the family business, took over in 2019 following the death of his mother and former owner Bena Samerpetak. Now, at just 22 years old, he’s managing it in a way he knows will honor her.
“It was a tough decision to drop out of school at the age of 16,” he said, “but they were working over 100 hours a week, so I made that decision and I didn’t regret it even a bit.” “If I didn’t do that, I wouldn’t be ready to run the business now.”
Mr. Swicom has worked in the restaurant since he was eleven years old. And just before reopening, he took a much-needed vacation.
“It gave me a lot of time to look back and think things through,” he said. “When it comes down to it, I still consider this my mother’s restaurant, and it was her desire to keep it going. That’s why it reopened.”
He added, “Even if the pandemic ends, I’m still not sure about reopening, but I really wanted to honor her legacy, and it’s such a beautiful space that I felt it would be a waste not to do anything with her.”
To make the space more beautiful, and his mother more proud, Mr. Soikum changed the dining room.
“We tore up the carpet, put in new floors, painted the walls, acquired new tables and chairs, and put in new systems,” he said. “The whole goal was to give the entire restaurant a more modern look. For me it was a bit outdated, so I wanted to renovate and update it constantly.”
He said he would love to see the faces of customers now entering for the first time since before the pandemic.
“I would love to see how surprised they are,” Mr. Swicum said. “I can’t get over how amazing the renovations looked.”
He said the list remains the same.
“I know there have been a lot of clients who thought that when my mom passed away things would be completely different,” he said. “But I was working directly under her, so all the food is perfectly made, and nothing has changed in that regard. All my mom’s recipes are still.”
Some of the highlights include fresh spring rolls, panang curry, fried rice, peanut noodles, and of course, Pad Thai.
“We like to keep things on the lighter, fresher side,” said Mr. Swicom.
He said that many people confuse Thai food with other Asian foods.
“But Thai food is really its own thing,” he said. “We don’t use a ton of oil like other Asian kitchens tend. We use more herbs and spices to season our food.”
He hopes that people will not be put off by the spices depicting Thai food.
“People think our food is spicy, but more than half of our menu contains non-spicy items, so we have something for everyone,” he said. “I would love for people who haven’t got Thai food to come over to give us a try.”
The Thai kitchen is open from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for lunch, and 4-8:30 p.m. for dinner Tuesday through Saturday.