Regulars and Shorts

Chef Profile: Thai Garden & Noodle House #2

By catalyst

Thai one on at Thai Garden and Noodle house…Number two.
by Emily Moroz

There’s no excuse not to eat great Thai food in Salt Lake City. Thai restaurants are popping up all over the place, and for good reason: The Wasatch Front is home to a culturally diverse population of people with good taste. “People here love Thai food, partly because of missionaries who’ve been to Thailand and East Asia and seek the food they ate while living there,” says Vipada Chitratont, owner of Thai Garden & Noodle House. Returned missionary or just religious about good food, you’re bound to find something delicious at Thai Garden’s second location in the heart of the 9th & 9th ’hood, opening early October. The first location, at 4410 S. and 9th East, has been open for five successful years.chefprofile

“My parents tended a rice field, so I grew up with lots of space to play in,” Chitratont says. She moved to the U.S. to study when she was younger and has lived in Salt Lake for the past 15 years. She misses parts of Bangkok and the surroundings in which she grew up, but says it’s too busy and crowded for her there now. Chitratont feels at home in Utah—here, her love of mountains and the outdoors is satisfied.

Chitratont creates the menu and ingredients for each dish, which are carefully prepared by her chefs. Thai Garden & Noodle House has many signature dishes, including Chitratont’s own eggplant creation. Her cashew and curry dishes would please any sophisticated Thai taster.

“Every Thai restaurant will have the basics; what makes each dish different is the tastes of the chef and owner. Me, I don’t like sweet as much as hot, spicy and sour—so those flavors will show up more in my dishes,” says Chitratont. The 9th & 9th Thai Garden’s menu is similar to its Holladay sister, but features a few more healthy and vegetarian options.

She hadn’t been planning to open a second high-volume restaurant, looking at first for a small house for a little café. But when they found the spot available right on 900 South, they jumped at the opportunity.

People warned her about the risk of opening a restaurant right now, but she knew the 9th & 9th area was a hot spot; the business could also provide much-needed jobs for unemployed in the area.

Getting to opening day had its challenges—zoning and code hurdles and remodeling the building, which used to be the Yuppie Puppy. But now a handsome wooden walkway guides diners into the beautifully remodeled interior; dark wood tables nestle between two attractive exposed brick walls, and framed paintings of the King and Queen of Thailand hang high on the west-facing wall: “a gift from Governor Huntsman,” explains Chitratont with pride.

Chitratont is welcoming and friendly; it’s obvious she loves what she does. Plus, “Thai people are naturally warm, and easy to smile,” she explains, smiling.

“We’re as close to ‘authentic’ as we can be, but even if a place claims to be authentic, nothing’s as good as the food in Thailand,” Chitratont says wistfully. Of course, if we could hop on a plane tomorrow just to sample “real” Thai delicacies, we would, right? For now, Thai Garden & Noodle House (the 2nd) will likely satisfy.

— Emily Moroz

Thai Garden & Noodle House
900 S 868 East


This article was originally published on September 30, 2009.