Monsoon, switched: Friends season Market Street with Siam
How did two Thai art students wind up taking over Monsoon, Charlottesville's oldest Asian fusion restaurant? Well, to hear 31-year-old "Kitty" Ashi tell the story, it began in Bangkok.
Kitty hails from a restaurant-running family, but it was in art school in Bangkok that she became friends with the now 29-year-old restaurant co-owner, "Pooh" Dutdao.
Starting as a dishwasher, Kitty arrived first in America and began working her way up the ranks at a corporate restaurant, Tara Thai. Last summer, while looking for an opportunity, she spotted an online ad saying that Monsoon, started over 20 years ago, was for sale. By this point, Pooh had moved to Central Virginia and Tara Thai as well.
"It's kind of like destiny," says Kitty.
Building owner Lu-Mei Chang had found a duo willing to carry on some traditions– even while revamping the menu toward Thai specialities.
Today, lunch specials are $7.99, and dinner starts at just a penny more. The restaurant at 113 Market Street, which they bought from Chang last June, is now called Monsoon Siam.
"We kept the Monsoon name," says 31-year-old Kitty, "because we wanted to give her respect."
True to their art school roots, the two have adorned the walls with some of their original artworks, including collages of stained wood, and they've installed a record player– yes, playing vinyl– in the front hall.
As far as they know, this is the only place in town serving Kao Soi, a northern Thai egg-noodle dish. And, unlike their experience at Tara Thai, when it sometimes seemed that eighty percent of diners would order Pad Thai, they're seeing wider choices from their downtown patrons.
"They love to experiment," says Kitty.Read more on: monsoon siam restaurant