Mother and daughter unite for Thai Harmony
A mother-daughter team is behind the newest Thai restaurant in town.
Thai Harmony is downtown at 102 West Third St., on the ground floor of the Liberty Plaza Building where Xia Asian Bistro & Sushi Bar used to be.
Owner Nui Ruangrat, 38, has redecorated the interior, which has indoor seating for about 130 people.
And she has a powerful force in the kitchen in the person of her mother, Aratporn Ruangrat, 65.
Nui Ruangrat moved here from her native Bangkok, Thailand, in 2001. She studied to be an MRI technician at Forsyth County Community College, but also worked at Thai restaurants around town.
“If you name all the Thai places around here, I’ve worked there,” Nui Ruangrat said.
Eventually, she decided it made sense to open her own restaurant. “My mom loves cooking and I love customer service. We’ve been in the restaurant business almost all our lives,” she said.
Aratporn Ruangrat cooked in restaurants in Charlotte, Tennessee and Colorado. She also worked with her daughter at Chada Thai on Jonestown Road.
Thai Harmony serves lunch and dinner, and it has an extensive Thai menu, a wide selection of sushi rolls and even a few Chinese dishes.
Lunch business has been good so far, Nui Ruangrat said. But she would like to see dinner pick up. “I think everyone goes to Fourth Street for dinner,” she said, “but we’re just one block away.”
A section of the menu titled Authentic Thai lists such classic dishes as kai yang (Thai roasted chicken), goong pad prig (shrimp with coconut paste, vegetables, kaffir lime leaves and basil), and pad khing (stir-fry with ginger).
“That’s like comfort food for Thai people,” Nui Ruangrat said. “You can find this food anywhere in Thailand — it’s street food you eat all day long.”
The noodle section includes Thai Harmony’s best-seller, pad Thai. “We want to introduce different kinds of noodles, too,” Nui Ruangrat said.
The most popular curry is the kao soy, a Northern Thai dish with chicken, coconut and crispy noodles.
Salads include prawns flavored with lime and lemongrass and crispy duck tossed with sliced apple and pineapple and cashews.
Ruangrat is particularly proud of her mother’s golden curry puff, an appetizer of curried ground chicken and potatoes wrapped in puff pastry. “No one else does that around here,” she said.
Aratporn said she tries to keep the traditional Thai dishes as authentic as possible. “I use less spice. But I try to keep it as much the same as I can,” she said with her daughter acting as interpreter.
Thai Harmony offers a special Sunday brunch menu, something other Thai restaurants don’t usually do. So the brunch menu features some dishes not normally seen in Thai restaurants.
Eastern Thai baked eggs are served sunny side up with a choice of spicy ground chicken, meat or vegetables. A Thai-style hamburger has Thai spices mixed into the beef and red curry on top. An omelet is stuffed with shrimp and crab and served with garlic fried rice.
Other brunch dishes include a savory Jasmine rice porridge that is served with ground chicken, garlic, ginger and cilantro; a distinctly non-Thai buttermilk waffle with honey-sriracha chicken tenders; and a Thai version of pho, the popular Vietnamese noodle dish. “In Thailand, pho is street food, but we don’t call it pho,” Ruangrat said.
A distinctive part of the menu is the section titled Modern Thai, where Aratporn Ruangrat can stray from traditional Thai cooking and try some new dishes. Steak au poivre has the crushed peppercorns that are usual to the French version of the dish, plus Thai basil and spices.
Grilled salmon is topped with chopped shrimp, Thai herbs and garlic-pepper sauce and served on a bed of spinach.
“I’ve seen what other restaurants are doing, and I think something is missing,” Nui Ruangrat said. “I want to take Thai food to the next level. We still want to do all the traditional food that we do best. But we also want to be creative.”