Tag Archives: Jeera Thai

Jeera Thai: Thanking A Gem

The other day, I stopped in to Jeera Thai.

That’s the tiny but wonderful restaurant tucked next to Finalmente, across from Design Within Reach, just down from Westport Pizzeria and the great new Field Trip jerky shop.

In a town filled with very good restaurants — and new ones coming (and going) all the time — Jeera Thai is at the top of any list.

This is the real deal. The menu is authentic — not watered down for American palates. Chicken, lamb, noodles, soups, stir-fry, curry — it’s all there, flavorful, zesty and real.

Herbs and spices are “correct” — imported from Thailand. Other ingredients come from New York, where there is a robust Thai dining scene.

Clockwise from top: Su Kho Thai, a very spicy noodle soup; curry puffs (chicken with cucumber sauce); Bangkok Stir Fry, another spicy and wonderful dish.

I had a salmon, red curry and coconut dish that was truly out of this world. Or at least, halfway around it.

Here’s the interesting thing: As I chatted with owner Jeeranunn Atiportunyapong — you can call her “Luna,” and I sure do — several other diners offered totally unsolicited praise.

“I’m very well traveled,” one said. “I study Asian culture. This is as spot-on as it gets. The food is so fresh. It’s real cooking. You can’t fake flavors. There’s a perfect balance between pungent and spicy. It can be ecstatically amazing.”

But she wasn’t finished. She added, “This place is a refuge for me. I come here 3 or 4 days a week.”

Luna, in her Jeera Thai restaurant.

Overhearing us talking, another customer chimed in.

“I’ve been to Thailand. This is so authentic. The pad kaprow and drunken noodles with beef — you can’t beat that anywhere. You should write a story about it!”

I don’t usually do that. But those customers — and all of Luna’s many others — are right. It’s a true Westport gem, hidden right in the middle of downtown.

So here’s that story. And (thank you, Google Translate!) here are my thanks to Luna, for Jeera Thai’s wonderful food and beautiful spirit:

ขอขอบคุณและขอให้โชคดี

Jeera Thai, nestled in a small space off the Post Road.

Jeera Thai: The Downtown Secret Is Out

It takes courage to open a (non-Italian) restaurant in Westport. In a small space.

In January.

But plenty of Westporters are glad that Darapon Wongchame — you can call her Dara, or Pook — did.

A year ago this month, the Thai native welcomed diners to Jeera Thai. Located next to Finalmente — opposite the old post office/aka the enormous and now shuttered Post 154 — it proves that a wonderful, authentic restaurant can succeed in a tiny space.

Jeera Thai, nestled in a small space off the Post Road.

Jeera Thai, nestled in a small space off the Post Road.

Pook does not have a lot of money to advertise (though she donates generously to every fundraiser that asks for a gift card or ad, and bought a booth at last summer’s Downtown Arts Festival). Success has come largely through word of mouth.

Because the mouths that Jeera Thai feeds love every savory bite.

Boards list the specials in Thai and English.

Boards list the specials in Thai and English.

Pook was born near the Mekong River. She came to the US in 1992, and helped her family with their restaurants in New Haven and Guilford. (Her mother — “a great cook” — taught her well.)

She laughs that she came to Westport for the shopping. But she found the people here “very nice, friendly, kind and helpful.” When she spotted the space available next to Finalmente, she did not hesitate.

Pook likes the location, on the busy Post Road in the heart of downtown. She trusted her instinct that her menu — truly authentic  Thai food, not watered down for the American palate — would resonate with Westporters.

It has. “People here have open minds,” Pook says. “They travel a lot. If food is not cooked right, they know.”

Her customers are “smart eaters. They don’t just swallow things down.” Many are pleased that her dishes can be vegan, and gluten-free.

Pook uses “correct” herbs. She pays a bit more to import brands from Thailand. Other ingredients come from New York, where there is a robust Thai dining scene.

Clockwise from top: Su Kho Thai, a very spicy noodle soup; curry puffs (chicken with cucumber sauce); Bangkok Stir Fry, another spicy and wonderful dish.

Clockwise from top: Su Kho Thai, a very spicy noodle soup; curry puffs (chicken, potato, onion with cucumber sauce); red jasmine rice; Bangkok Stir Fry, another wonderfully spicy dish; ginger tea.

Much of her business is takeout. She also delivers via UberEATS. (It’s expensive for her, but she wants to make customers happy.)

There is seating for 30. Pook has no liquor license, but diners can bring their own drinks.

In just a year, Jeera Thai has become an integral part of Westport’s dining scene. Pook’s customers have made her feel welcome — and she loves them back.

Meanwhile, she has adapted well to our town. Like any local, whenever she craves a certain food, she heads right over to her neighbor: Westport Pizzeria.

(For more information on Jeera Thai — including the menu — click here.)

Pook Wongchame (right) with 2 of her staff (from left): Yada Nakarnchintranath and Nena Vong.

Pook Wongchame (right) with 2 of her staff (from left): Yada Nakarnchintranath and Nena Vong.

Art (And More) About Town

Tonight’s Art About Town opening party drew hundreds of folks to Main Street.

Plenty of actual art was displayed, on sidewalks and in store windows. But there were other art forms too: street performers, musicians, face painters and more.

Plus (of course) food.

The annual event is sponsored by the Westport Downtown Merchants Association. Artwork will remain in stores — and available for purchase — through June 19.

Painting with a Twist had a booth -- including (just like at their art sessions) a bottle of wine.

Painting with a Twist’s booth included (just like their sessions) a bottle of wine.

But is it art?

But is it art?

Builders Beyond Borders showed mosaics. This one was made out of pieces of photos, taken on a recent service trip.

Builders Beyond Borders offered mosaics. This one was constructed from thousands of photos, taken on a recent service trip.

Little kids can make art out of anything. Including sand.

Little kids can make art out of anything. Including sand.

Art About Town - 2 ladies 1

Two ladies.

Haitian artist Jean Benoit -- now living in Stratford -- showed off his works near The Gap.

Haitian artist Jean Benoit — now living in Stratford — showed his works near The Gap.

Boo!

Boo!

Jeera Thai was among many downtown restaurants offering dinner.

Jeera Thai was among many downtown restaurants offering dinner.

Art is all about free expression.

Art is all about free expression.