Kata Thai opens as newest restaurant in Hanover

by Samantha Stern | 1/11/16 6:01pm

Kata Thai Kitchen, the newest addition to Hanover’s food scene, opened Jan. 8 at 6 Allen Street, across from Everything But Anchovies. Named after its owner Kata Chompupong, its name means “cooking pan” in Thai. The restaurant joins two other Thai establishments in Hanover, Tuk Tuk Thai Cuisine and Thai Orchid.

The menu features rice, noodle and curry dishes made using the recipes of Chompupong’s father Champ Champupong, who is the chef. The food is “traditionally flavored,” drawing on the chef’s training in the Thai countryside, the younger Chompupong said. Pan-Asian dishes – those he defines as being “Southeast Asian to Chinese, anything cooked with a pan or a wok” – are also on the menu, he said, citing yakisoba, a Japanese dish, as an example

Kata Chompupong grew up in the restaurant industry. His family’s first restaurant was located in upstate New York, but the Chompupongs moved throughout Kata’s childhood, opening restaurants throughout Vermont. Their most well-known restaurant, Bangkok Bistro, was known for its Thai fusion cuisine as well as its martinis, he said.

When Bangkok Bistro closed, he proceded to open his own first restaurant, Bangkok Minute Thai Café. The responsibility of running the restaurant at 24-years old was a lot to take on and left Kata Chompupong burnt out, he said. He worked as a DJ and was a general manager at a friend’s club in Burlington, before recently deciding to open Kata.

Chompupong’s father suggested Hanover as a location for the new restaurant. He had driven through the town multiple times when touring colleges with his daughter, and sensed that the people were generally very amiable, Kata Champupong said. “Because it’s a small town, if you send things from your heart, they [customers] will respond well,” Kata Champupong added.

Kata Thai uses fresh ingredients, many of which are purchased from Asian markets in Boston, Chompupong said. A large amount of preparation – up to 48 hours – goes into each of the dishes, he said.

Chompupong’s cousin is helping him out at the restaurant, and Chompupong is planning on hiring a chef from Los Angeles, he said.

He added that he is seeking to target the younger generation with affordable prices. The restaurant will be open seven days a week for both lunch and dinner.

“Our price points are in an area where you can do take-out every day, come and eat every day,” Kata Chompupong said. “It’s a quick cuisine, in and out kind of place.”

Kata Thai will deliver to dorms at the College as well as residences in the area, he said. For those who do decide to eat in, the atmosphere is intended to be relaxing, Chompupong said.

Chompupong plans on making every dish consistent and on providing generous, yet healthy, portion sizes, he said, emphasizing the flexibility of his menu. Each dish can also be tailored to suit patrons’ needs, he said.

Among the chef’s favorite dishes are the moo ping with sticky rice, which consists of pork marinated in cilantro roots, garlic, coconut, sugar and soy sauce, he said. The younger Champupong also recommended the ga pow, a house fried rice mixed with pieces of spicy chicken cutlet.

“My food looks different from the other two Thai restaurants,” said Champ Champupong. “I make it here. I make it fresh daily.”

Pannipa Pace, owner of the nearby Thai restaurant Tuk Tuk, said that her restaurant is also family-run and uses multigenerational recipes.

“Mom is a very good cook,” Pace said. “She’s a hard worker, and she makes her own recipes. I can’t live without her.”

While Pace was initially nervous about the opening of a third Thai restaurant in Hanover, she said she soon realized that if it wasn’t this restaurant, another would open. Tuk Tuk has a loyal and constant customer base, she said. The restaurant can also only accommodate 106 people at maximum, while the College has thousands of students, she noted. Having another choice is a good thing for customers, she said. Pace said she believes students may enjoy the noodles at one Thai restaurant, the stir fry at another and the curry somewhere else.

In addition to serving food, Kata Thai will sell groceries and snacks imported from Asia, the owner said. After solidifying the current menu, Chompupong also intends to sell sushi and bubble tea, he said.

The eatery currently does not have a website, but does have a Facebook page onto which photos, menu updates, specials and discounts are posted, said the owner. Dartmouth students can receive a ten percent discount by showing a valid Dartmouth ID.

Louise Barias ’18 said she did not particularly like Thai food and is indifferent to the opening of Kata. She noted the lack of other types of offerings, add that, if anything, she’d like to see a Caribbean restaurant.

Karina Korsh ’19 said that she is thrilled by the opening of a new Thai restaurant, saying she orders in food about once a week. Korsh said that the existing Thai options in Hanover offer customers different experiences, but added that Hanover lacks “fast-casual” and healthy off-campus options.