Raise a Glass to Women at Chao Krung
LA’s oldest Thai restaurant has California’s first all-female wine list.
Story by Fiona Chandra
As Los Angeles, California’s longest-running Thai restaurant, Chao Krung isn’t resting on its laurels. It’s kicking glass ceilings.
When Chao Krung first opened its doors more than 50 years ago, it was Los Angeles’ second Thai restaurant (the city’s first Thai restaurant, Thai Kitchen, has since shuttered). These days, there are a myriad of Thai dining options in every neighborhood in L.A., but Chao Krung is staying relevant.
Amanda Kuntee and Katy Noochlaor—the daughters of Boon and Supa Kuntee, who opened Chao Krung in 1969—are now at the restaurant’s helm and have made changes to keep it at the top of its game. Amanda, who has helped with cooking since she was a child, runs the kitchen and Katy heads up operations. Amanda and Katy took over the business in 2018 and renovated the Fairfax Avenue location where the restaurant has been operating since 1976. While growing up they juggled helping at the restaurant and attending high school a few blocks away. In that time they’ve seen how both the L.A. dining scene and the Thai food scene have evolved.
A few years ago, Katy and Annie Daniel, a cousin, opened Same Same, a Thai wine bar in the burgeoning Silverlake neighborhood. Now, Katy and Amanda are incorporating that wine knowledge into Chao Krung. Recently, the sisters decided to launch an all-female wine list—the first of its kind for a restaurant in California.
“As a women-run restaurant, we want to support women across the hospitality industry,” says Katy. “So we put together a list that showcases incredible wines by talented female winemakers.”
On Chao Krung’s innovative new wine list, every wine has a significant female presence, whether it’s a solo owner or winemaker, a husband and wife duo, or brothers and sisters. Descriptions underneath each listing share the female story behind each wine.
Beyond selecting great wines by female winemakers, the sisters also look for wineries that support local farmers and, of course, make wines that complement Thai food. “We selected wine that pairs well with our food, so something fresh, fruity, and fun,” says Katy. For example, the semi-sweet Ovum Riesling from a wife/husband natural wine producer in Oregon is a tasty match with the spicy and sour Isaan sausage. Garlic shrimp pairs with another floral and bright white wine, Cortese from Il Poggio “Nuvole sul Poggio,” a winery with three generations of female winemakers in Gavi, Italy.
Along with the wine list, Amanda and Katy also revamped the food menu. It offers both classics as well as new dishes that work well with beer and wine. Though before the recent revamp Chao Krung’s menu had become more Americanized, now Amanda is going back to her family’s roots with traditional recipes. Some of these are no ordinary recipes: Their grandmother used to cook for the king of Thailand! The menu also includes original recipes developed during the restaurant’s evolution; these dishes are influenced by both Thai and Western flavors. One example, BBQ pork ribs marinated in coriander, garlic, barbecue sauce, and pineapple happens to pair well with the Domaine de la Commanderie Chinon “Vielles Vignes” Cabernet Franc from France’s Loire Valley. This winery mirrors Amanda and Katy’s own story, as two daughters of the original winemaker are now running it.
Chao Krung’s wine list may be small in comparison to higher-end restaurants, but it is well-curated with both new- and old-world wines represented. Prices are approachable; the most expensive wine costs $14 a glass or $50 a bottle. This family-owned restaurant may have connections to royalty in the past, but it has been a place that’s welcomed foodies for more than 50 years.
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Fiona Chandra is a freelance writer and food blogger based in Los Angeles, California. Born in Indonesia, Fiona loves to travel the world and explore different cuisines. She has been blogging for more than a decade and has written for Eater, Fodor’s, and other publications.