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New Thai restaurant on J Street: Sawasdee

Say goodbye to Mongo Mongo and say hello to the new Thai restaurant, “Sawasdee,” which also means “hello,” in Thai. The family-run restaurant held its cold opening last week at 1830 J Street, the location of the short lived mongolian barbeque place, Mongo Mongo, which recently closed in March. There have been two restaurants at this location over the past two years, but this hasn’t deterred the new owners who say they’re ready to be there for the long haul.

Sawasdee will be entirely family-run by the Chaipants, who are new to owning a restaurant but aren’t rookies to running one.

“We’ve all had lots of experience working at various Thai restaurants in the area,”, said 27-year-old Amm Chaipant, co-owner of Sawasdee. “My dad moved here from Tailand in 1999 and he was a chef for over ten years at a Thai restaurant in Davis. So we know exactly what to do and what not to do — we’re just ready to do it ourselves now.”

The kitchen will be run by Mr. Chaipant who prefers his first name to be undisclosed for this article. He’s working hard to dish out family recipes along with traditional Thai entrees that he has customized himself. For example, a popular Thai dish is coconut soup with cabbage, broccoli, tomatoes, ginger and lemon grass, but Mr. Chaipant also adds coconut meat, an ingredient that he says is rarely included.

There’s also the cashew stir fry – sliced meat with cashews, celery, bell peppers, green onions, homemade chili sauce, with a special chef’s addition of mango to add a little twist. Another dish is the salmon apple salad, which is a healthier alternative and a personal favorite in the family.

Sawasdee will be an affordable place for a large lunch. Lunch specials range between $7.50 and $10.00 for one entree, a side of rice, and spring rolls. There are plenty of tempting desserts as well, like deep fried ice cream or mango sticky rice.

Amm’s brother, Minn, 28, says everything moved really fast. The whole family has been in full gear since Amm’s friend and former employee of Mongo Mongo told her about the business going under and the location opening up.

“We’ve been thinking about starting a restaurant for a while, but just couldn’t find the right location,” said Minn.

He adds that they had a slight conflict with Mongo Mongo’s interior décor at the front of the house: a glass window that customers could peer through to see their food being made. But Amm and Min covered it by digitally printing four separate images that form a panoramic silhouette of a Buddhist journey in Bangkok, Thailand when placed together.

The building has also been repainted a different color; green.

“It’s a good thing we didn’t paint it pink like we originally planned,” said Amm. “It looked like a big cupcake, but we just wanted something eye-popping and green ended up popping the best.”

Sawasdee’s grand opening is slated for the second Saturday in May. They’re now waiting for a beer and wine license and to add two more cooks to the kitchen. They will be open from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. for lunch, and 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. for dinner.

“If everything works out, we hope to have a late night menu by expanding our hours to 2:00 a.m.,” Amm said. “But now we are just excited to open the doors and keep them open.”

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