Much has been written about Pai since it opened. In case you've been living your life with a chapatti over your eyes and cauliflower stuffed into your ears, Pai is the new home of Nuit and Jeff Regular's brand of Northern Thai cooking. Chef Nuit's spices and rich, saucy curries have become increasingly familiar to Torontonians since they first opened Sukhothai in 2008. You may know that Nuit basically brought khao soi to Thai menus across the city. You may have heard the story about how her and husband Jeff met on an elephant. But you may not know the following— here are five little-known facts about Pai.
Be-bop is a legendary bar in Pai— the city in Thailand— that helped shape its music scene back in 1996. Modeled off of the famed space, Be-bop— the bar inside of the Toronto restaurant Pai— is a place where people can hang, drink, relax, and have a few bites, according to Jeff. It's got a separate snack menu and serves as the bar within the restaurant. Soon there will be communal instruments and extended hours, perhaps even some live music and comedy. "It's got that snack bar feel— an alternative to wings and nachos," says the bar manager.
Keeping with the live performance theme that's central to Pai's culture, the stage will soon hold more than a few mhon sam leum (lounge pillows). Live music nights are something that will eventually take over the stage, but as it stands, the long, colourful pillows and the low-set table make for an alternative (kan tok) style of dining that's traditional in Thailand. If interested, ask to be seated there when you call for reservations.
Take a look around the dining room and you'll notice a collection of items that were brought in from the areas surrounding Pai, the city. Salvaged by the husband of a Thai antique dealer formerly located in Baldwin Village, the door to the private dining room, with its rusty latches and mismatched boards, came off a house in Northern Thailand. A set of walls and a vintage Pepsi sign have also made the 13,000km journey. The takeout station is made to look like a small food stand, and the back salad bar resembles the front of a house.
"We wanted the space to resemble a typical street scene in a Thai village," Jeff says. "Come through our doors and you're a guest in our home."
Over a dozen staff members have spent considerable time in Thailand's city of Pai, and community and culture are important to the restaurant. "Unlike at our other locations, we have a growing stream of Thai customers here that are regulars," Jeff says. "We're so happy that we've been able to create a space that's familiar for those that have been to Thailand. Building a community around this restaurant is really important for everyone involved."
Customers who have been to Pai can become part of the rather exclusive community. Bring proof of travel to join a special mailing list for invites to special events.
Tucked behind a set of doors that came off a house in Northern Thailand is a long wooden table that seats up to 24. Primarily reserved for private bookings and tasting menus, this room offers guests a chance to go off menu and place their palates in Nuit's capable hands. It's Nuit's outlet for creativity and provides an opportunity for her to make some of the more labour-intensive or cost-sensitive dishes that cannot be executed in the restaurant itself.
"Our first consideration was how to eliminate the barriers to providing the type of specialized and personal service we strive for," Jeff explains. "The second centered around our desire to host special events without shutting down the whole restaurant."
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