Kata Thai and Samosa Man merge businesses

by Gabriel Onate | 9/29/17 2:20am

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Kata Thai will rebrand into Samosa Man on Monday as a restaurant serving cross-cultural cuisine.

by Hannah McGrath / The Dartmouth

In July, Thai restaurant Kata Thai owner Janet Wong and Samosa Man owner Fuad Ndibalema began the process of merging their eateries into a single, cross-cultural restaurant that will replace what is currently Kata Thai. Ndibalema said that the transition will be complete on Monday. The merger comes as the second major change to Thai restaurants in downtown Hanover following the closure of Thai Orchid.

“We’re here in [Hanover], and we need to have more cultural, different types of food,” Wong said.

This idea, she and Ndibalema believe, is what led them to incorporate African cuisine and samosas into Kata Thai. Wong added that the merger with Samosa Man, a popular eatery that frequents the Hanover Farmer’s Market, could bring an “African flavor” to the restaurant. Specifically, that flavor is Congolese, which is Ndibalema’s nationality and area of expertise.

Ndibalema said Samosa Man will keep the traits that it had at the farmers market as one of the local stands that operates on the Green each Wednesday. The cross-cultural restaurant will be located at Kata Thai’s old address on Allen Street.

Because of the transition, Ndibalema says that he and Wong have had to recreate the restaurant’s menu and decide on a new name. Ultimately, they decided to call the new restaurant Samosa Man, which Wong said she hopes won’t confuse people.

“It’s 100 percent Samosa Man, serving Thai food,” Ndibalema said.

Wong added that despite that, she is confident that their workers will have no problem adjusting to the new menu, especially the cooks. She explained that the restaurant would hire additional staff to prepare new menu items and support projected increases in traffic to the restaurant. However, Wong said that Kata Thai’s original chef would remain at the new restaurant to continue preparing Thai food.

Originally, Wong planned to introduce pho as a menu option to her restaurant by August. However, her plans changed when she met Ndibalema while he was looking for a kitchen to rent. Fascinated by the food that he cooked, Wong offered Ndibalema the opportunity to sell his cuisine at her restaurant. The two became close, and their partnership arose “naturally” from that, Ndibalema said.

Pho is currently off the table for the two partners, although they considered it while thinking about samosas, Wong said. Ndibalema clarified that their goal is to “just focus on what we do, get it going — the samosas.”

That doesn’t mean that they’ve scrapped the idea altogether, Wong said. They feel confident and satisfied with the direction they’re heading at the moment, she added.

“The partnership is great — it’s amazing,” Ndibalema said, adding that he believes it is “a win-win for the community [and us].”

Hanover town manager Julia Griffin said that the success of local businesses like Kata Thai depends on students’ continued support. Citing the recent closure of Everything But Anchovies, which she believes was precipitated by the opening of Domino’s Pizza in West Lebanon, Griffin reaffirmed her stance on students’ effect on local businesses.

“For any restaurant to ultimately be successful in Hanover, student support is a key part,” she said.

Griffin also added that successful restaurants keep Dartmouth students in mind when making decisions about catering and pricing. She believes Kata Thai was founded with the intention of appealing to the College’s student body, citing the restaurant’s low prices relative to its Thai neighbor, Tuk Tuk Thai Cuisine, and its takeout-friendly environment. Her “assumption,” she said, is that Wong and Ndibalema will remain focused on appealing to Dartmouth students even as they change the restaurant’s name and menu.