Neighbourhood: King West
Contact Info: 18 Duncan St., 416-901-4724, paitoronto.com, @PaiToronto
Previously: A Golden Griddle
Owners: Sukhothai and Sabai Sabai owners Jeff and Nuit Regular, with Janet Zuccarini (who also owns Gusto 101)
Executive Chef: Nuit Regular
The Food: Thai food experts Nuit and Jeff Regular are slowly introducing Torontonians to Thailand’s full panoply of regional cuisines. They serve central-Thai food at Sukhothai, northeastern Isan cuisine at Sabai Sabai and now, at Pai, traditional dishes from the country’s far-northern tip, which is known for its particularly fragrant and spicy food. Options include a gingery gaeng hunglay curry with oxtail, a pork-and-offal salad, and a DIY papaya salad with salted crab. (The plates are served family-style, and eating with your hands is strongly encouraged.) A simpler menu of bite-sized snacks (e.g. pork rinds, mussels) is available at Bebop, the casual, all-day snack bar.
The Drinks: During the day, Pai operates as a laid-back café, serving coffee-based drinks made with beans from Thai coffee company Doi Chaang. Evening options include Thai-inspired cocktails, draught beer and bai wun (sometimes called “jelly beer”), which is basically a beer slushie.
The Place: “Pai” is the name of a backpacker’s oasis in northern Thailand where Nuit Regular lived and cooked for a decade. The restaurant was designed to capture the look and feel of the town. There are intricately carved teak panels (from a 20-year old house in Chang Mai), artwork and prints from the region, and an open kitchen that looks a bit like a market stall. The hippie, easy-going atmosphere carries over to Bebop, where guests can shoot hoops while waiting for their drinks and snacks.