If you’re in the mood for avocado toast, waffles or a benedict for Sunday brunch, but your partner wants spring rolls and a bowl of tom kha, Sistory Thai Kitchen will satisfy both of your cravings. Nichaporn Jumpangam, who goes by Mickey, is one of four Sistory business partners who explained the idea behind serving brunch alongside Thai food. Part of the inspiration came from a friend of hers who has an American husband. When they eat out, he prefers American food. Whereas she prefers Asian food. At Sistory, couples, friends and families with diverging taste buds will all find options to choose from on the menu.
Mickey and her partners—Wittawat Sangrat (Poppy), Nutpalakorn Thawong, Sirirat Sophak (Aye)—met as co-workers in the restaurant industry before joining together to open Sistory. She had already partnered with Poppy, who is the main chef, to open their first restaurant, Bluefin Sushi & Thai in Alameda. They opened Bluefin during the pandemic summer of 2020. Instead of worrying about Covid-19, Mickey thought the restaurant would offer them an opportunity to start something new. From the beginning, she believed that if they served good food at reasonable prices, people in the neighborhood would eat out. “Everybody has to buy food,” she said.
When the owner of Sabuy Sabuy II in Berkeley wanted to retire, he reached out to Mickey last year. She and her other partners felt that San Pablo Avenue was another good location. They came up with the name Sistory, which, she explained, is what it sounds like—a history of their partnership as a sisterhood. Poppy, she said gleefully, is a gay man, so the sisterhood still applies to him. He’s the head chef, and most of the recipes originate from him and his family’s restaurant in Thailand.
But he also partners with Aye, who is knowledgeable about Northern Thai cuisine. Mickey sent me an email after we spoke that read, “Aye skillfully curated our Kanoomjeen Nam Ngew, a Northern Thai dish that’s popular among our guests.” Described as a soup or curry, the ingredients include vermicelli noodles, ground pork, pork blood cubes, red cotton flowers and cherry tomatoes.
Generally though, Mickey describes the menu as full of familiar Thai flavors, with some fusion dishes. For example, lobster ravioli is served in a tom kha coconut milk broth with mushrooms, baby corn, tomatoes and mozzarella cheese. The breakfast and brunch menus, though, amp up the fusion. A Thai tea pancake comes with a side of homemade Thai tea syrup. And the “Sister Benedict” is a crispy chicken thigh served on English muffins with poached eggs and a yellow curry hollandaise sauce.
I ate at Sistory before the start of their breakfast service. My go-to favorite soup, tom kha gai, passed the litmus test. The broth was creamy and spiced with just enough heat. I tried the tasty and tender egg noodles on my friend’s plate of kao soi, which his niece had instructed him to order. He happily took the leftovers home with him to share with her. And we split an order of Chinese broccoli, sautéed in an oyster sauce, because I go through phases where I can’t stop thinking about eating green vegetables.
Sistory is modestly-sized, a one-room restaurant with tables set snugly together. Located just north of the Gilman intersection, the address is walkable from the Westbrae neighborhood, and for more ambitious amblers wandering in from North Berkeley. When we walked in on a Friday night, every table was occupied except one. The diners represented a typical cross-section of Berkeley residents. There were families and students. And, to our immediate left, two couples who, I suspected from their conversation, had been locals since the 1960s. If they were disappointed when Sabuy Sabuy II closed, Sistory Thai Kitchen has quickly replaced it as a neighborhood bistro worth revisiting on a regular basis.
Sistory Thai Kitchen, open Sun to Thu 8:30am-2:30pm + 4:30pm-9pm, Fri to Sat 8:30am-2:30pm + 4:30pm-9:30pm, 1233 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley. 510.705.1635. sistorythaikitchen.com