First Look: Chiang Mai in Webster Groves
For over 10 years, Thai fusion restaurant Tei Too was a staple of the magical strip of Big Bend Boulevard in Webster Groves that also houses Weber’s Front Row, Balkan Treat Box, Webster Wok and The Frisco Barroom. Earlier this year, however, owner Ann Bognar (who also owns Nippon Tei) sold the space to her sister, Su Hill, who would set out to create an entirely different kind of Thai experience, one based on the food of her northern Thai hometown, Chiang Mai, after which the new restaurant at 8185 Big Bend Blvd. is named.
Northern Thai food is different from what we commonly think of as “Thai food” in St. Louis: curries and stir fries, dishes full of noodles and plenty of vegetables. “We are totally different,” Hill said of the food she grew up eating. “I was born in Chiang Mai - that’s how I came to think about Thai food.”
So how is Hill’s food unique? “It’s not complicated,” she explained. Hill’s food is made entirely from scratch, and focuses on fresh produce and herbs - some even comes from her own garden - chiles, high-quality meat and complex broths and braises. Dishes are mostly focused on one or two proteins, either grilled or fried, with fresh herbs and spices and, in many cases, rice. According to Hill, almost nothing comes from the store.
A list of small plates includes dishes like grilled pork sausage (sai oua), tapioca dumplings filled with meat and peanuts (sakoo sai moo), green papaya salad (som tom), grilled pork loin with sweet chili-tamarind sauce (moo ping) and more.
Larger shared plates feature a wide range of textures and flavors. The gaeng hung lay sees braised, curried pork resting in a broth full of garlic and ginger, while the gra dook moo (grilled baby back ribs) has notes of honey and garlic; the paloa eggs and tofu features whole hard-boiled eggs and stir-fried tofu in a subtle, soy- and palm sugar-forward broth. The khao munn gai includes steamed chicken that can be dipped in a soybean sauce or broth. More familiar dishes to some may be the shrimp pad thai and the pad woon sen goong, which sees shrimp mixed with cellophane noodles, tomato, cabbage and onions in a garlic sauce.
A list of rotating specials can be found behind the host station, and the off-menu dessert when we visited was a pumpkin custard. Thai iced tea and coffee are available, as are a few beers.
Learn more about Chiang Mai’s hours, dishes and history in the slideshow below.