Aug. 18 2010 12:00 AM

Despite location change, Thailand maintains its authentic flavors


The cuisine may be from halfway around the globe, but Thailand restaurant in Old Town only had to move a couple of miles to find its new home.

Thailand was formerly located on North Larch; the Vimolsathit family packed up and relocated in February, a slightly shorter trip than the one owners Decha and Ann Vimolsathit made to the United States from their Thai homeland in the early 1980s.

The first incarnation of the restaurant was successful, but Vanissa Hicks (nee Vimolsathit) says a move to Old Town made sense even from the beginning.

“We looked at Old Town when we first started, but we couldn’t find the right place,” Hicks says. “We just really like the area.”

With seating for around 20, and in a building characteristic of the area (once the home of L’mai Thai), Thailand has the feel of a small town diner, sans a gum-snapping, sassy waitress.

At the previous location — and every so often in its new home — Hicks says people are sometimes unsure of what Thai food is all about.

“A lot of people think it’s Chinese, but it’s not,” she says. Some ask if it’s from Taiwan. Others assume the only sure thing about Thai food is it’ll burn your mouth with spiciness.

While spicy food is a characteristic of many Thai dishes, Hicks says customers can control heat in most dishes. Authentic recipes are a source of pride for Thailand. Consistency can be expected, too, as the place runs five days a week with exactly one cook: Ann Vimolsathit.

“She always wanted to own her own restaurant,” Hicks says of her indefatigable mother. “Before we opened five years ago, she would take orders for egg rolls from teachers at school and make them to sell at school festivals.”

Now Ann has everything she can handle, especially when Thailand stays open late or on weekends for Old Town festivals. During Jazzfest, Thailand remained open late and nearly ran out of food.

“She was exhausted by the end of it,” Hicks says of her mother.

The food can be spicy, to be sure, but it’s full of flavor regardless of the order. The Thai curry dishes mix coconut milk with a curry base, meat, seafood or vegetables. Some curries are prepared specifically to be smothered over rice for comfort food that blows mac and cheese out of the water.

A daily lunch special ($5) is offered from 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; diners may choose from six entrées to go along with white or fried rice, an eggroll and a drink.

The yum nua ($5.99) is a marinated beef dish, savory with a bit of acidity from the marinade, mixed with slices of red onion, wedges of tomato, flecks of chili, cucumber and cilantro. (Yum refers to the charbroiled style of cooking, nua to the beef.) Paired with a cucumber and lettuce salad, it’s a light but filling meal.

The spring rolls ($1.99 for three) are crispy and flaky and come with a peachcolored, sweet and sour sauce. You can use the remainder of the sauce as a tangy little dressing for the salad that came with the yum nua.

“It’s authentic, for sure,” Hicks says.


401 E. Grand River, Lansing (517) 372-8992 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday- Friday TO, $ (cash only)