Toronto’s biggest trend: Little Thai restaurants

Despite Toronto’s small Thai population, their restaurants dominate the city’s culinary scene.While big names like Pai have long been prominent, it’s the cosy, bespoke eateries with 30 to 50 seats that are stealing the spotlight.

Nana

Nana’s cosy 60-seat setup mirrors Bangkok’s street eateries, boasting shared tables and colourful plastic stools. Diners can sample an array of dishes inspired by Thailand’s street food culture, creating a lively and enjoyable dining atmosphere reminiscent of various regions across Thailand. “Nana” is the part of Bangkok where people meet to dine and socialize, and although many of the dishes at this Queen West eatery are for the more adventurous, either in their flavour profiles, lesser-known ingredients or spice level, there are plenty of options for even the most discerning palates. 785 Queen St. W.

Som Tum Jinda

Although it arrives Michelin recommended from Thailand, among Toronto’s array of Thai restaurants, it had much to prove — and prove itself it did! Open for just under a year, the unassuming basement-level restaurant aims to offer Torontonians a unique Thai experience. Specializing in northeastern Thai dishes, the restaurant is best known for Som tum, a zesty papaya salad prepared using a mortar and pestle. In its cosy intimacy, an open concept kitchen is at the heart of the restaurant, adding to the overall atmosphere. 76 Gerrard St. E.

Favorites Thai BBQ

A Bib Gourmand recipient, this Trinity-Bellwoods establishment, owned by Jonathan Poon (of Khao San Road and Paris Paris fame), opened to acclaim in 2019. The cosy 40-seat restaurant occupies the rear part of the storefront, with Sam
James Coffee anchoring the front. Like Jonathan Poon’s other Toronto eateries, it encourages diners to enjoy the company and atmosphere as much as the food. Breaking tradition, it focuses on Thai-inspired salads and grilled dishes using local ingredients. Chef Ronnie Sue ensures each dish, from salads to grills, bursts with spicy umami and smoky tones. 141 Ossington Ave.

Maya Bay

Step into Maya Bay, and you’ll feel like you’ve been whisked away to Thailand, not Cabbagetown. The late-night Thai snack bar, from the mind behind Koh Lipe, draws its name from the iconic island featured in The Beach, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. The small 40-seat venue is embellished with artwork by Thai artist Aoe Girard, and the menu bears the mark of Iron Chef for Chef Prasopchok “Art” Trakulphat, renowned for his modern interpretation of traditional Thai cuisine. Try the flavours of the tom yum linguine and the leng saap, a Thai spicy pork bone soup. 252 Carlton St.

Article exclusive to STREETS OF TORONTO