.Attraros Thai Eatery Joins Swan’s Market

Pintoh’s owners expand the menu at their second restaurant

While Pim Soithong attends to customers who walk through the front door of Attraros, her husband, chef Akara Sutraromluck, stands behind the kitchen counter frying up a variety of Thai dishes. Attraros Thai Eatery is the couple’s second restaurant. They opened their first Oakland restaurant, Pintoh, together in 2017.

Pintoh’s menu reflects the chef’s roots in northern Thailand where his family owned a restaurant. Soithong described the dishes there as, “comfort food, like stir fry and noodles.” At Attraros, Sutraromluck has kept some of his family’s recipes, but he’s also added handcrafted dishes from central Thailand that take more time to prepare.

Attraros is situated on the southern corner of Swan’s Market, west of the communal food hall. When I stopped by in the afternoon, pairs of old friends were catching up over lunch plate specials ($16.50). Entrées—such as pad thai, the old standby of noodles, shrimp, tofu and bean sprouts; and khao pad gai tod, fried rice with crispy chicken—come with rice and a vegetarian roll.

Soithong, who grew up in central Thailand, joined me at my table to talk about the cuisine. “We eat more street food, like chicken and rice and a spicy papaya salad,” Soithong said. “Northern Thailand is well-known for curry and noodles.”

There are two nearly identical papaya salads on the menu. The dressings differentiate them. A fermented fish sauce drenches som tum Laos ($14). A tart chili-lime dressing coats som tum Thai ($14). I ordered the latter. The chef slices fresh green papaya into thin slivers, adding tomatoes and green beans. It’s a substantial salad, and the kind of dish to long for on a hot summer day.

Even though running a restaurant during the pandemic was “crazy” for Soithong and Sutraromluck, they decided to open a second restaurant when offered a space at Swan’s Market. “Akara said, ‘Let’s do it,’ because he wanted to create a different menu that he’d had in mind,” Soithong said. 

On a return visit to Thailand, Sutraromluck found the recipe for a starter, toong thong ($12), or deep-fried golden bags filled with minced chicken and prawns. “He goes to local restaurants there, tiny mom-and-pop shops,” Soithong said. “He picks a dish like the golden bags and then makes it work here in his own way.” Toong thong are crunchy, like egg rolls, but the insides are remarkably tender. The side dip is a sweet-and-sour sauce.

Miung kim, salad bites, ($11) are akin to a tea leaf salad but in miniature. Six small shallow bowls contain a single delicate spinach leaf. Ginger, chilies, lime, dried shrimp, peanuts, roasted coconut and a shrimp paste nestle together at the center of each leaf. The chef adorns all the ingredients with a tiny purple—and edible—pansy.

The taste of miung kim is, separately, both bitter and sweet. Raw spinach leaves move the dish to the bitter side of one’s palate. I’d be curious to try it again, but with a cabbage leaf, butter lettuce or even an iceberg wedge to offset the saltier components. Having said that, a sip of butterfly pea lemonade ($6), as purple as the pansy’s petals, was just sweet enough to cast off any lingering acrid aftertaste.

Soithong spoke candidly about running a business in Oakland. She said that Pintoh has been broken into a couple of times and that all of the money was stolen on at least one occasion. “But the diversity is great. Every time that we had anything happen all our friends, family and customers came out to support us,” she said. “We feel lucky that we have the restaurant in Oakland.”

Like every other restaurant, Soithong and Sutraromluck closed Pintoh for the first couple of months of the pandemic. “We tried to make our employees feel safe at work,” Soithong said. When they reopened, they relied on a take-out menu to keep the business open. “We gave food to low-income people and the homeless to help the community,” she said. “Then people started to get to know about us.”

Attraros Thai Eatery, open Mon to Sat 11:30am to 2:30pm and 5-8:30pm; Swan’s Market, 542 9th St., Ste. B, Oakland. 415.654.0947. attrarosoak.com.


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