World-renowned Thai chef Arun Sampanthavivat announced the reopening of Arun’s Thai Restaurant in Chicago’s Albany Park neighborhood. An iconic dining destination with a more than 30-year history, the newly reopened restaurant presents a reimagined experience of flavorful and visually stunning cuisine, globally inspired wine offerings, a new focus on craft cocktails and elevated service.
Born and raised in Thailand, Chef Arun introduced his namesake restaurant to Chicago in1985. The restaurant has amassed an impressive collection of accolades. It was one of only two Chicago restaurants included in the New York Times bestseller, “1,000 Places To See Before You Die”, and Chef Arun earned a coveted James Beard Foundation Award in the Best Chef Great Lakes category in 2000.
In 2017, Chef Arun joined forces with Kittigron Lirtpanaruk, co-owner of Spice/SEA Group of New York, a new partnership that allowed him to maintain his focus on preparing outstanding, authentic cuisine in the kitchen alongside his two brothers, Anawat and Nit. After a brief closure to reinvigorate the restaurant interiors and menu offerings, Arun’s reopened March 2017.
“I am very excited about this new chapter for Arun’s, which has allowed me to return to my true passion of delivering elevated Thai fare to our guests,” says Chef Sampanthavivat. “We strive to make every moment magical. We want our guests to feel like they’ve been transported to Thailand. ”
With refined focus on presentation and authentic ingredients, the dinner menu at Arun’s changes thematically and features a range of enticing and stunningly plated dishes available in 10 or 12-course settings. A balance of dynamic and static elements, the meal begins with Sequential Banquet, wherein the first courses are served individually, and then continues to the Family Banquet, which includes shareable main courses. Individualized desserts provide a sweet finish to the meal.
Chef Sampanthavivat’s personal mantra when it comes to food is that a meal should reflect five key elements: flavor, texture, form/presentation, temperature and aroma. His cuisine brings each element to every plate with a delicate blending of eastern and western philosophies for a culinary experience like none other.
Current menu items include five-flower pork with a peppery turmeric curry sauce, sweet curried lobster and Siamese noodles. Guests can also expect signature favorites they have come to know and love with a new twist – like the celebrated massaman beef curry and mee kati coconut noodles. While menu changes daily, highlights may include:
Trio Platter: Golden basket of lobster, sweet pea, corn, shitake mushrooms and carrots; Golden pouches of taro root and Dungeness crab; steamed salmon dumplings
Spring Rolls: Vegetable spring roll with Dungeness crab, sweet and sour tamarind sauce, hot mustard
Five-Flower Pork: Savory pork, watercress, peppery turmeric curry sauce, hot mustard
Tricky Tuna: Spicy, herbed tuna, cucumber salad
Tea Time: Hot and sour lemongrass soup, golden fried shrimp quenelle
Siamese Noodles: Coconut vermicelli, shrimp-tamarind black bean sauce, golden friend prawn, garlic, chives and lemon
(Family style presentation)
Mussaman Curry: Slow braised beef, red curry, coconut, herbs and spices
Sweet Curried Lobster: Bangkok style curry, prik-king lobster, string beans, diced prawn and kaffir lime leaf
Five-Element Vegetable Platter: Vegetable medley, seasons rutabaga-stuffed wonton, light soy sauce
Beyond the Sea: Red snapper, three flavor sauce
Briar Patch: Pandan noodle, coconut milk and berry compote
Cool Coconut: Coconut ice cream, sticky rice, sweet potato, pandan-coconut cream
Arun’s prides itself on customizing menu items to guests’ allergies and dietary restrictions. Chef Arun is also known to recreate dishes from previous menus upon request if guests have a memorable favorite not currently represented on the menu.
Globally Inspired Beverages
A new craft cocktail program, led by Brian Garvens (previously of the Globe Pub and Epiphany Farms in Bloomington, Illinois), embodies the soul of Thailand through fresh ingredients and premium spirits. The current menu features:
Thai 75: Bombay Sapphire East, Lemon, Sugar, Cranberry-Ginger Kombucha, Champagne, Lemon Zest, Basil
Thai Basil Mojito: Bacardi Gran Reserva Blanco, Lime, Agave, Basil, Mint, Soda, Domaine De Canton
Old Fashioned: Knob Creek Cask, Demerara, Angostura, Black Walnut Bitters Orange Zest & Amarena Cherry
Negroni: Tanqueray Ten, Campari, Carpano Antica, Peychaud’s, Orange Zest & Cherry
El Mediador: El Milagro, Key-Lime, Ginger, Agave- Pink & Black Salted Rim Pineapple & Kiwi
Chumphon Café: Dark Roast Coffee, Courvoisier, Cinnamon, Demerara Rim Lemon Peel, Chili Chocolate
Guests will also be treated to an extensive yet approachable wine list featuring varietals that accentuate the unique layers of flavor in Thai cuisine. Aromatic whites and lighter bodied reds that match acidity and the spice of Arun’s menu complement creative, vibrant dishes. The wine list also includes classics from new and old worlds including Bordeaux, Willamette, Napa, Burgundy and New Zealand—it also expands to lesser-known gems including Grignolino from Piedmont, Italy and white Rhone blends.
The 80-seat main dining room showcases beautiful new floors, ceilings and lighting, while maintaining the intimate feel for which the restaurant is known. The upstairs private dining room, seating 12, is undergoing interior enhancements and will reopen later this spring.
Arun’s Thai Restaurant offers two prix fixe menus (10 and 12-course) Tuesday through Sunday. Seating reservations are taken Tuesday through Thursday from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. until 9:30 p.m.