Little Grenjai Is a New Thai Spot in Downtown Brooklyn

Little Grenjai Is a New Thai Spot in Downtown Brooklyn
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Little Grenjai co-owners Trevor Lombaer and Sutathip Aiemsaard.
Photograph: Tonje Thilesen

At Little Grenjai, a brand new Thai supply spot that opened this previous spring among the many ever-growing high-rises of Downtown Brooklyn, the menu may be very brief. With simply 13 objects, plus a couple of sides together with jasmine rice, the centered listing was impressed by the meals co-owner Sutathip Aiemsaard craves when she’s homesick for her native Thailand. “Thai individuals don’t eat pad Thai on a regular basis,” she says. “However our holy basil pork stir-fry — that’s one thing I eat virtually each single day after I’m residence.”

“Dwelling” is Bangkok, the place Little Grenjai bought its begin. In 2016, Trevor Lombaer was touring in Thailand. He’d purchased a one-way ticket, trying to immerse himself within the nation’s meals, having grown disenchanted together with his job as a line prepare dinner in Brooklyn. He determined to attempt the online-dating scene, swiping proper on Aiemsaard. It was the primary time she agreed to exit with somebody she’d met on Tinder. They bought collectively and instantly discovered a shared ardour: consuming. A number of days later, Aiemsaard took Lombaer outdoors Bangkok to her household’s hometown of Samut Sakhon for a seafood feast, and shortly after, they determined to journey collectively, falling in love as they discovered recipes all over the place they went. By the top of the journey, three months later, Lombaer satisfied Aiemsaard to maneuver to New York. They utilized for a wedding license instantly.

Whereas they waited for the visa course of to be accomplished — with Aiemsaard in Bangkok and Lombaer in Brooklyn — they dreamed up Warung Roadside, a pad Thai truck fabricated out of an previous hot-dog cart. Aimsaard, who has a background in design, dealt with the branding and graphics; Lombaer examined recipes and navigated the logistics of opening a meals truck in New York Metropolis. After Aiemsaard arrived in Brooklyn, the couple labored aspect by aspect, turning out plates of noodles whereas rising their new enterprise and life collectively. In fall and winter, they’d journey by Asia; within the spring, they’d return to the truck. However as they have been getting ready to reopen in March 2020, the pandemic arrived, and so they decamped to Lombaer’s aunt’s home in Sagaponack.

Within the Hamptons, the couple launched the Sagaponack Supper Membership, a takeout and supply operation that quickly became a weekly pop-up at Sagaponack’s Old Stove Pub. “The idea was daring worldly flavors celebrating all of the locations we’d visited,” explains Lombaer. “We’d do an exploration of Vietnamese meals, Mexican meals, and naturally Thai meals. We thought of how nobody might journey at that time, so we helped them expertise components of the world by meals.”

The nice and cozy reception to the pop-up led them to Little Grenjai, which operates out of a ghost kitchen in Downtown Brooklyn. The title, explains Aiemsaard, comes from the Thai idea of grenjai, or excessive thoughtfulness, through which you go to nice lengths to not put one other individual out. And, she says, “we’re only a little grenjai — we don’t sacrifice Thai meals’s funk and warmth.”

The couple prepares the entire meals collectively, each weekday.

Lombaer and Sutathip subsequent plan to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant in Mattress-Stuy.

An expansion of dishes from the small takeout-only menu.

Images by Tonje Thilesen

The spice blends and condiments are all do-it-yourself, and whereas there are some “chef-y” riffs on dishes — reminiscent of including Lengthy Island duck confit to the khao soi or a vegetarian laab with portobello mushrooms as an alternative of meat — they by no means sacrifice taste for creativity.

In simply over a month, they’ve picked up some followers: “That is the form of Thai meals takeout we’ve been in search of in Brooklyn,” says Elena Besser, a chef and recipe developer. “If it have been socially acceptable, I’d eat the cracklin’ pork stomach on the bamee moo krob like popcorn.” One other frequent buyer, Eric Brettschneider, says he appreciates the eye paid to greens, as with the holy basil Brussels sprouts.

Lombaer’s longtime buddy and neighbor Palika Makam can be a daily, and — she’s fast so as to add — that’s not solely due to their private relationship: “We’ve ordered from them a bunch, and it’s not simply to help our pals. It’s good-ass meals.” Rising up in a South Indian family the place her mom cooked the very best dosas and idlis on the town, the one takeout her mom agreed to was Thai. “I assumed I knew Thai meals, however after I was launched to this, I spotted that I had simply seen the tip of the iceberg.”

Makam appreciates the store’s small menu — “High quality all the time suffers when there’s an excessive amount of” — and says every dish travels very well. (Whereas growing their recipes, the couple waited half-hour earlier than tasting dishes to check their sturdiness.) However Aiemsaard and Lombaer have greater ambitions — together with a brick-and-mortar restaurant they’re working to open in Mattress-Stuy. Within the meantime, they’re working aspect by aspect each Monday by Friday, cooking the meals that introduced them collectively.

Jumbo lump crab fried rice.
Photograph: Tonje Thilesen

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