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Sep 20, 2007 02:48 PM

MSP--- New Spot for Supatra Thai

I was on West 7th today and saw a “COMING SOON” sign for Supatra Thai near the intersection with Randolph. I see from their website that they’ll be open mid-October. This should be a great addition to the neighborhood.

Just thought I post the heads up.....

Uncle Ira

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  1. Great scoop! I hope it's good. Is there another location of this restaurant in the Twin Cities?


    2 Replies
    1. re: The Dairy Queen

      I think it’s the same restaurant that was in Lowertown near the farmers market. There had been a Sawatdee in the same spot, and then I think Supatra was there for a few years. I never went there though, so I can’t be sure.

      Anyone who ate there care to share??

      Uncle Ira

      1. re: The Dairy Queen

        This is why I treat the Food&Dining pages like People magazine....

        For the longest time, Sawatdee had a restaurant in Lowertown as Uncle Ira says. Then they left and very soon after, one of the former Sawatdee staff opened her own Thai restaurant in that spot. The cook's eponymous restaurant was Supatra.

        Time went by, and Supatra closed her Lowertown restaurant only to be replaced -- and promptly -- by another incarnation of Sawatdee. Like musical chairs, I am telling you. It may be one of those buildings that is getting the condo/loft gentrification treatment; there is definitely a bit of that going on in the area.

        Now Supatra's back, in a neighborhood that's seems to be getting some good restaurant action recently but where the rent must not be nearly as heartbreaking.

      2. Supatra seemed to appeal to people who were unfamiliar with what real Thai food tastes like. If you like Sawatdee, you'll like Supatra. If you have ever had the good fortune of eating classically prepared Thai food you will not like Supatra at all. The Minnesota Nice version of Thai cooking served up in these towns is by and large a very cheap imitation of the real thing.

        7 Replies
        1. re: HuaGung

          HuaGung, I believe you are right in your assessment; however, Sawatdee was the first Thai resto in the Twin Cities that made a hit with Minnesotans and their bland palates, and when it opened, the food was considered "extremely spicy hot" by those same, bland palates, and the food was pretty foreign to about 90% of the MN population at that time. And to think it was even dumbed down at that time goes to show you how "white/bland/pallid" the MN palate used to be (and in many cases still is by the aged - like my father). Sawatdee did a wonderful job of introducing a wonderful cuisine to Minnesota, so I can't ever dis them! And obviously, they still appeal to many!!

          1. re: tart1

            I realize Sawatdee's place in our local history, and we largely deserve the mediocrity we seek here. I don't blame the restaurateur, I blame the locals for the bland and blind approach to classic cuisines. I also compare places like Sawatdee with a place in Las Vegas called Lotus of Siam. The woman who owns it steadfastly refuses to accommodate anyone who asks her to compromise her skills by selling something she isn't proud of. She has a small restaurant in a dirty, rotten largely vacated strip mall far from the popular places in that town. She is busy (sold out) 7 days a week. Gourmet magazine calls her restaurant the best Thai food in the United States. Rather than play to what the locals "think" Thai food should be, she simply serves them what she "knows" Thai food really is. It shouldn't be that hard to do it here.

            Krua Thai (warts and all) in St Paul is vastly superior to anything Supatra ever was. Here's to hoping the reincarnation of Supatra will bring with it a really great surprise of authenticity.

          2. re: HuaGung

            HuaGung--(may I call you fish head?) f you wouldn't mind sharing, what are your thoughts on 1) Thai Basil on University Avenue in St. Paul and 2) the Thai menu at Willowgate in Roseville? I'm curious about the former because I've heard so much about it and, the latter because I enjoyed it on my one visit there. Alas, I haven't been able to get back there to see if it's consistently good.


            1. re: The Dairy Queen

              Yes you may, although "shrimp head" is more accurate. ;>

              I have had two visits to Thai Bazil and one to Willowgate. Neither my wife nor I like Willowgate at all. That is not to say that all is lost, it's just that it is a hybrid restaurant and we tend to avoid those. We thought the curry there to be too sweet and not spicy enough for our taste. I am spoiled, I realize, in that I have a great luxury of living in Bangkok two months of each year so my expectations for Thai food are very high. I can't help it.

              As for Thai Bazil, we like it, but prefer Krua Thai because we are able to order "off menu" in Thai there and get lovely food, perfectly prepared. We pay for that luxury, however. At Thai Bazil we have enjoyed whole fried Tilapia and Pad Pak (essentially stir fried vegetables in oyster sauce with chilis).

              Other posters in the months and years past have noted that Krua Thai sells a sweet version of Thai food. And I believe this is true as well, unless you ask them to "make it like Bangkok, please." Then they won't. Many Thai believe they 'must' change the taste of their food to accommodate our tastes here and get any locals into their restaurants. It's sad, but probably true.

              1. re: HuaGung

                Whoops--shrimp head, right!

                Yeah, I recall that the curry (from my one visit) at Willowgate wasn't that spicy, although, it was much better--more complex and better balanced-- than the one-dimensional, overly-sweet stuff I've had elsewhere in MN. (It was far less sweet than what I've had at Royal Orchid Thai or True Tha recently, for instance.) I don't personally mind that Willowgate is a hybrid restaurant. If it were one chef trying to do two menus, that would be one thing, but my impression was that they have a Thai chef specifically for the Thai menu. I certainly could be wrong, but it sounds like they are just sharing a kitchen, a dining room, and a waitstaff which I don't think is that objectionable, as long as the waitstaff is well-trained. Nevertheless, thank you for your comments.

                The problem with Krua Thai, of course, for those of us who don't live in Bangkok two months out of every year, we aren't going to be able to order "off-the-menu" to get the lovely, perfectly prepared food you describe. We're more or less stuck with the menu they offer. Thank you for the tip to ask them to prepare it "like Bangkok"--very helpful. Is there anything on the menu you think they do particularly well (or not well and should be avoided?) What are you ordering off-menu that the rest of us should be asking for?


                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                  Off menu at Krua Thai... a very deep and lingering curry called Gaeng Ba. It has no coconut milk in it. Eat it with whatever meat suits you, but we usually go for pork because it is sturdy enough to stand up to the curry. Shrimp is also very good. When prepared 'like Bangkok' it will take your breath away for a moment or two. It is a lingering curry because it is based on dried chilis which tend to have a longer 'half life' in your belly (!). Other things they do well include Neua Yang Jim Jao (ask for sliced beef with Jim Jao sauce). Jim Jao is a spicy dipping sauce that is lovely on grilled meats, but not so much on fish and seafood. We are NOT very taken with their pad pak (stir fried vegetables). They're always too sweet and lacking variety no matter how much we plead. And to end on a happy note, they do whole fish very well. Pla Sam Ros (fish with three flavors) is excellent. Just be sure to tell them you want the whole fish (Tilapia or Snapper if they have it are best) and yep eyes and all staring right back at ya) and to make the sauce spicy. This dish done with filets is no where near as good as the whole fish. The dish demands the crispy counterpoint to the complex sauce. The filets get mushy very fast and it kind of spoils the fun.

                  Although I am not a fan of green curries, my wife loves them at Krua Thai.

            2. re: HuaGung

              Thanks for the head's up. I haven't spent as much time in Thailand as you, but enough to shudder at the thought of Sawatdee being considered a Thai restaurant. I might take your tips and chowpartners to check out Krua Thai sometime.

              Any other Thai restaurants in the Twin Cities that you'll eat at (with pleasure)?

            3. I live in the 7th/Randolph 'hood, so I was excited to hear a Thai place was going in to that space. . . until I heard it was Supatra.

              I ate there several times for lunch and dinner while they were in the Lowertown space (it was very conveniently located). At first, the food was decent, although I don't think I'd ever have raved about it. But as time went by, it lost more and more of the flavors that you'd expect from decent Thai. The herbs, ginger, lemongrass, etc. became fewer and fewer and eventually seemed to disappear altogether.

              My last meal there was an absolutely terrible bowl of tom yum that was neither sour nor spicy - it literally tasted like straw mushrooms in chicken broth with a little boiled chicken thrown in. AND it cost about $7 for a small soup-bowl sized portion. Unconscionable!

              Now I'm not saying I won't give them a chance or two in their new space, but I'm not overly optimistic either.

              3 Replies
              1. re: diesel

                agree with diesel. supatra was within walking distance of the former soupkitten mansion, so ended up giving it more tries than the place deserved. terrible food, cheaper and cheaper inauthentic ingredients in lackluster compositions. lucked out one time early on with decent, flavorful food, but they must have fired the only chef who knew what s/he was doing, because it pretty much sucked from then on. wasn't sorry to see the place close, and it won't be high on my list to try their new location.

                1. re: soupkitten

                  Sigh... Soupkitten and Diesel--- You’re breaking my heart. I was soooo excited to see that this was moving into the neighborhood. But it sounds as if I shouldn’t get my hopes up too much. We can only hope that with a fresh start in a new location there will some improvements. I would think their rent would be lower then it was downtown. Maybe that extra cash will go to better ingredients, and better people to prepare them.

                  I’m keeping my fingers crossed

                  Uncle Ira

                  1. re: Uncle Ira

                    i think that the old supatra's was not helped by the butler-square-like atmosphere of the location, or its close proximity to good local faves such as tanpopo and black dog-- still, they would serve mealy old potatoes, miserly amounts of basil & other fresh herbs, and tasteless pink tomatoes in the height of summer, despite being across the street from the st. paul farmer's market! they didn't seem to have any regular customers, and seemed to survive off of lunch specials. it just seemed to me like no-one's heart was in the food, especially towards the end. . .

                    i do hope the reincarnation of the restaurant will do wonders for supatra's menu & that the owners will try to do more than just apply the same ol' sawatdee formula to their own food--we can hope. . . i am still searching for a really wonderful thai place-- gotta get over to thai bazil and krua thai i guess!

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