The family that satays together
June 9, 2008 · Updated 6:11 PM
Sawan Thai opens at Lynwood Center, an offspring of the
Few restaurants open to busy nights.
But Sawan Thai Kitchen has an island lineage others dont enjoy.
Sawan Thai Kitchen, which opened this month at Lynwood Center, comes from the same cooking tradition as the popular Sawatdy Thai Cuisine at Island Center. Thats not surprising as the entrepreneur is San and Lani Trans son, 35-year-old Minh Tran.
Tran says his aim is not to take away from Sawatdy, but to capture the customers who frequently cant get into Sawatdy many nights, and keep the overflow in the family.
Sawatdy has been great for the community for many years, and I dont want to take away from that, Tran said.
Sawatdy Thai Cuisine, was opened by Trans parents 13 years ago, has become one of the favorite restaurants among Bainbridge Islanders. Tables are hard to come by most evenings and certainly on weekends.
Trans parents recently retired and handed over the management of Sawatdy to his sister Quyen. Another sister runs the Thai restaurant Aroydy in Poulsbo.
Growing up the the island, Minh Tran and his eight siblings all helped out their parents at Sawatdy. The family escaped from conflict in Laos in 1976 and arrived on the island by way of Thailand under the sponsorship of a local church.
Sawatdys success was the fruit of the hard-working familys labor. Minh did bookkeeping, picked up groceries, served and even learned to cook.
Mom and dad offered to help Minh get Sawan Thai off the ground, but he wanted to take on the venture by himself. Still, family is not far away. An uncle and some brothers are on staff and moms recipes are in the kitchen.
When you open a restaurant, you have to have a family to support you, Tran said. When you have family, its the trust and commitment thats important.
With his math degree from the University of Washington and electrical engineering degree from Seattle University, becoming a restauranteur may not have seemed a likely occupation, but Minh said he enjoyed working with his family at Sawatdy so much, he decided to challenge himself by starting a restaurant.
Whats the payoff?
When you see people walk out happy, it gives you a good feeling about the work youve done, Tran said. Thats the reason I stuck with the restaurant for many years.
Most people know (Sawan) is related to Sawatdy and its nice to see the old faces from Sawatdy. Hopefully, we can get the new ones, too.
The cuisine at Sawan Thai is similar to Sawatdy, but Tran has added tempura prawns, duck, pork chops and Bangkok chicken batter-fried with a honey glaze to Sawans offerings.
Sawans chef, Lek Sudchaitham, was coached in the Tran family cooking style, which Trans mother created by mixing Vietnamese elements his fathers heritage with Thai flavors.
Tran believes its that blend that makes his mothers cooking so popular.
His personal favorites are the pad thai and garlic chicken, a stir fry with steamed vegetables on the side.
Tran said he had a few worries about how the island crowd would react to another Thai restaurant, but so far the island has responded well and Im grateful for that.
Working on the island, people are more close. Everyone knows each other. Ive done very little advertising so far, Tran said. It only takes a few to spread the word that theres another restaurant on the island.
Sawatdy will always be the islands favorite. Hopefully, they can make this restaurant the second favorite.
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Sawan Thai Kitchen is located in Lynwood Center at 4765 Lynwood Center Road near Walts. The restaurant is open for lunch 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; for dinner from 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday; and closed on Monday. To make a reservation or for more information, call 842-5345.