A critically acclaimed chef from the now-shuttered Red Hook restaurant Kao Soy has resurfaced with a Thai restaurant of his own.
Sirichai Sreparplarn opened a 20-seat restaurant called Ugly Baby at 407 Smith Street in Carroll Gardens this week. He was previously co-chef with Kanlaya Supachana at Kao Soy, which attracted a citywide fanbase for its fiery cuisine after Pete Wells awarded it one-star.
That restaurant closed in 2015, and though the two co-chefs did a northern Thai pop-up called Chiang Mai, Ugly Baby is the first Sreparplarn will be back in a restaurant full-time. (Supachana has moved to North Carolina.) Like at Kao Soy, Ugly Baby aims to show people how food is experienced in Thailand — with lots and lots of spices, he says.
“It might be intense when you do it over here, but it’s really common when you do it in Thailand,” Sreparlplan says. “I use it in a really generous amount.”
It’s not exactly like Kao Soy, though. Here, the chef will be pulling equally from four different regions of Thailand, the north, the northeast, central, and south. He will make curry paste from scratch, with garlic, chili, and lemongrass flavorings. Other dishes — also packed to the brim with spices — will be accompanied by a plate of raw vegetables to balance out the intensity, Sreparlplarn says.
“We serve it exactly the way it is served in Thailand,” he says.
A limited menu currently in place includes dishes such as tom som pla kra pong (a central-syle red snapper with ginger and tamarind), kang hoh (a northern-style pork shoulder with red curry paste, spare ribs, and mungbean noodles), and kua kling (a southern-style beef shank curry that’s described as “brutally spicy”). All dishes cost $25 and under.
The restaurant offers take-out and will eventually also do delivery. As for the name of the place, Sreparplarn says it refers to an old Thai saying:
This is really my first business, and I'm really kind of nervous and scared to fail, to be honest with you. There’s an expression in Thai, when you have a newborn baby, you’re not supposed to say it is cute because the spirit will make it go away. You’re supposed to say it’s ugly, so it will stay us. It’s the same way I feel about that business.
If Ugly Baby is anything like Kao Soy, it’s a restaurant to watch. While the chef worked at the Red Hook spot, Wells deemed that it served many Thai dishes rarely found elsewhere in New York City, many of them imbued with “overall deliciousness.”
Ugly Baby is open on Monday through Friday from 5 p.m. to 10.30 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.