It turns out that despite the signs outside still advertising the authentic Thai cuisine of Sue, she has since retired and sold the business to another family. So instead of being greeted by a smiling Suni or her daughter, I was received by an older couple watching Wheel of Fortune-- also all smiles--who proceeded to tell me how they bought the place from Suni a couple years ago. Like I said: not a regular.
The only other change in the restaurant besides the new name, Ban Thai (on the menu only), is a large freezer that hums loudly in a corner. Otherwise, this new smiling Thai couple had left the dining room as it was--that is, relatively sparse save for a few portraits of the Thai royal family. They also seem to have inherited the same customer base. Sue of Siam was never packed, in fact more than once my wife and I were the lone diners there on a weekend night, and though there must have been enough loyal regulars to keep it up and running, they never seemed to go there on the weekends. Ban Thai was as empty as I always remember Sue of Siam being.
I ordered my food from what essentially seemed like the same menu save one item: a duck dish that I absolutely loved but didn't see listed. I asked for it. I couldn't remember clearly what it was, but the husband half of the team just nodded, said something in Thai to his wife who was already in the kitchen and turned back to me, smiling: "Duck Curry."
He must have sensed my doubt that his wife would cook this dish as well as Suni because he immediately began explaining to me how all the recipes were the same as when Sue's was open. He then motioned for me to sit at the counter and poured me a tall glass of green tea. "Cold outside," he said.
It was indeed cold that night and the tea was perfectly brewed, simple and just what I needed to wind down after a long day of twin-raising. He must have also known the look of man worn out from child-rearing, because the next words from his mouth were, "You have children?"
"Yes," I told him, "Twin boys."
And before I had the time to say anything else his omnipresent smile grew even bigger as he put the fingers and palms of both hands together under his chin and said, "Ice cream."
He pulled out the menu and pointed to where it read "Coconut Ice Cream" and, with a smile said: "They like ice cream," as if it were an obvious fact rather than a question.
"Yes," I told him, not wanting to take away from the generosity of this gesture by telling him that my boys, only six weeks old at the time, wouldn't know ice cream from the shit in their own diapers, "Yes, they do."
After all, I was having a proud father moment. This was the first time I had ever been able to respond in the affirmative to a stranger that I was indeed a parent, and in a roundabout way-- that is, through my wife's breast milk-- the boys would be getting a taste of that ice cream eventually.
He hurried over to the freezer, pulled out a tupperware container and then disappeared behind the kitchen counters. I smiled and sipped on my tea, and for a few minutes found myself perfectly relaxed for the first time in weeks; feeling warmed, welcome and-- with the sounds of noodles frying in a wok and the aromas of Thai chiles coming from the kitchen-- hungry.
He came back out with a scoop and starting piling the ice cream in to a take-out container. He told me it was homemade, one of the items that he and his wife added to the menu. I joked to him that the ice cream might not make it home because it looked so good. "I know," he said, reading my mind once again. Then he smiled and showed me the spoon he put in the bag, "I give you your own spoon for the car."
It did make it home... but look how good.
I chatted some more with this kind-hearted Bangkok native, and he listened patiently to me tell him about the time my wife and I were in Bangkok and how much we loved it. Meanwhile Wheel of Fortune had turned to Jeopardy and my food was ready to go. I almost didn't want to leave, because despite the barren space of this lonely location it continues to be a comfortable and relaxing place.
Driving home I did try to figure out a way to shift gears and eat the ice cream while not killing anyone on East Colfax, but I decided it couldn't be done. When I got home my wife and I immediately set in on the bounty that was our first take out since the boys were born.
The first dish that we tore into was the duck curry. The duck was well-roasted and once likely had nice crispy skin but it was a little on the chewy side in this dish. Otherwise it was an excellent and unique combination of sweet and spicy with big colorful chunks of pineapple, green bell pepper, tomatoes and grapes. The strong aroma of Thai basil tied it all in together and it was an overall great bowl of curry.
My wife for whatever reason is not a big fan of duck, so even though it was a little redundant, we also had ordered a pineapple curry, which was always my wife's favorite Sue of Siam dish. This one came with pork (pork and pineapple of course one of my favorite combinations) and though not as rich (or good, in my opinion) as the duck, it was just as I remember from Suni's days.
The pad Thai was where Ban Thai fell short when compared to Suni as far as I can remember. Although to be fair we ordered it mild (breast milk thing) versus always having had it spicy in the past which I admit is a lame way to eat pad Thai. Even after I tried to spice mine up with some red Thai chile-garlic sauce it was still a little bland and forgettable.
The drunken noodles with beef were solid. I had been told to also order mild with this dish, and I thought I did, but they were rather (refreshingly) spicy. That only meant more for me, and I happily devoured as much as I could after eating my fill of duck curry.
The coconut ice cream was absolutely amazing. Rich in wonderful creamy coconut flavor but light and airy in texture. Like any great dessert it was somehow easy to stuff in our faces even after eating more than our fill of curry and noodles. We did the best we could to save some for later, but we all know how that goes.
The food at Ban Thai might not quite be everything that it once was under the masterful hand of Suni, but the tradition of a warm and inviting place for comfort Thai continues. So even with the ownership changes, it is still a good option for Thai food with great prices.