For 163 Temple St., it is out with the old Thai and in with the new.
Koon Thai Kitchen opened its doors on Dec. 8, just two weeks after Thai Noodle Cafe — which previously occupied the building — halted service when its Delaware-based owner grew tired of the commute. Koon Thai’s owner, Kanni West, decided to renovate the space and reinvent the menu with her own recipes after moving to New Haven from Las Vegas last month, where she had worked for multiple Thai restaurants. Alongside her parents, who also made the move to the Elm City, West serves dumplings, curries, Pad Thai and bubble tea, among other dishes.
“I remember eating ramen here; I didn’t realize that it changed,” New Haven resident Missy Fernandez said, who was having a meal at the restaurant on Sunday evening.
To North Haven resident Harry Day, the entire strip of Temple Street between College and Crown streets has become unrecognizable. Just in the past two months, three eateries have opened in the location, including Olives and Oil, Ben & Jerry’s as well as Koon Thai.
Koon Thai’s prices similarly compare to nearby Pho Ketkeo on Temple Street with dishes such as pork curry at $8.95, shrimp Pad Thai at $10.95 and bubble tea at $3.50. Nearby competitor Mecha Noodle Bar on Crown Street charges more for its food, but Fernandez said Mecha is more “hip” and frequently has a line of customers flowing from its doorway.
But Koon Thai hopes to soon increase its own popularity. Now, most of West’s customers come from recommenders and Yelp, she said. This spring, West hopes to spend a week further renovating Koon Thai to improve the restaurant space for herself and for customers, she said, and to push the kitchen to the back to open up a bar.
With these renovations, the restaurant’s atmosphere will be more open and better able to serve alcohol, she said.
West has nearly a decade of experience with Thai restaurants. She worked as a waitress at Thai Chef & Noodle Fusion in Philadelphia nine years ago and eventually was promoted to manager. After her stint in the City of Brotherly Love, she moved to Las Vegas and continued working at several Thai restaurants there.
“We need to get started with the foundation first,” West said.
Koon Thai Restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day.