Laan-Thai is a gathering spot for Thai cuisine in Ogden
Downtown Ogden is a long way from Southeast Asia, but Herb Thaweesri wants guests at Laan-Thai Restaurant to feel that they are eating in Thailand.
“We don’t Americanize the food; it is authentic,” he said. “It tastes like what we eat back home. These are all my recipes. I make my own sauces and everything.”
Although Pad Thai is the top-selling item, the menu extends way beyond these popular stir-fried rice noodles.
“I want people to try different flavors of Thai cuisine,” he said. “We include the four different regions of Thailand, so people can have the full experience when they come.”
A few of the entrees include Eggplant Basil (Pad Makeua), Crispy Basil Chicken; Crying Tiger (Seua Rong Hai), which is grilled steak with dry chili dipping sauce, served on a sizzling platter; and Crispy Basil Duck (Ped Tod Horapa Krob). There are also stir-fries such as Cashew (Pad Med Mamuang) with cashews, yellow onions, carrots, green onions and a choice of protein such as chicken, pork, tofu, beef or seafood.
The expansive menu also lists:
- Ten different kinds of soups including Pho, Duck Noodle Soup and Tom Kha, with its fragrant coconut milk-and-lemongrass broth, mushrooms, tomatoes, cilantro and green onions.
- Four kinds of laab, a dish from the northeastern part of Thailand that uses minced pork, chicken or beef.
- Five different fried rice dishes, including pineapple and sriracha.
- Seven different curries, including the signature Laan Thai Special Curry (Kaeng Laan Thai), which Thaweesri describes as a hybrid of massaman and red curry.
- Nine kinds of stir-fried noodles (including the popular Drunken Noodles) and 13 different appetizers.
- Eight different salads, including squid salad and Lao-style papaya salad (Tum Mak Hoong) flavored with fermented fish sauce.
- Desserts include coconut ice cream, mango coconut ice cream, fried bananas with coconut ice cream, and mango sticky rice.
“We are different from many other restaurants because we are more authentic and have more options, and we use high-quality ingredients, such as imported jasmine rice from Thailand,” Thaweesri said.
Some people fear that “Thai cuisine” equals “mouth-searing heat.” But when placing the order, customers can specify their desired heat level, from 1 to 5. Also, there are gluten-free and vegetarian options.
“We cook to order,” Thaweesri said.
“Laan” means “gathering place,” he said, and depending on the tone used, it can mean “millions.” Does this mean that millions will gather at Laan-Thai? Well, since it opened in July 2021, business has been going very well, Thaweesri said.
“We are super busy in the evenings and weekends,” he said. “People have to make a reservation for Friday and Saturday evenings.”
Thaweesri grew up in northeastern Thailand, and graduated from BYU-Hawaii, where he worked as a tour guide at the university’s Polynesian Cultural Center. He moved back to Thailand and taught in a public school, then founded his own language school and bakery. It was there that he met his wife, Kate Thaweesri, from Mountain Green. She had come back to Thailand after serving a mission there for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and found a job teaching at Thaweesri’s school.
The couple moved to the USA in 2019 so their two young children could attend school here. Through his language school, Thaweesri had many tour groups lined up. Then COVID hit and the tours were canceled.
“I had to find a new thing to do,” he said. “I always had a dream of opening my own restaurant. Growing up, I helped my aunt cook in the kitchen, so I learned all about Thai cooking. And I had worked in the food industry in Hawaii.”
Armed with his recipes and experience, he looked for a possible location and found it at The Junction. The space (next to Five Guys) had housed New Sun Restaurant, offering Japanese, Chinese and Thai cuisine.
“New Sun got hit hard during COVID and were looking for someone to take over the spot,” Thaweesri said.
He gave the interior more of a Thai feeling, adding wall murals and bamboo light shades. He managed to squeeze in a few more tables. There’s also a private table for 10 in the back that requires a reservation.
A tip: “On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, I encourage people ordering takeout to order online on our website, instead of by phone,” Thaweesri said. “Because when it gets so busy, we don’t pick up the phone. But the online orders are automatically sent in.”
IF YOU GO
Location: 2327 Washington Blvd.
Contact: https://www.laanthairestaurant.com or 801-689-7025
Price range: Entrees, $10-20
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday and Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday