By Tomoo Furuta / Japan News Staff WriterMATSUDO, Chiba — When you enter the Ruwhan Thai restaurant, the exotic interior design immediately catches your attention, followed by the Thai pop music that fills the air.
Owner Kenichi Hashimoto, who opened the restaurant in 2012, was proud of the fact that he uses homegrown organic vegetables to make dishes.
The restaurant, whose name means house of Thailand in Thai, will mark its fifth anniversary on Dec 7. Hashimoto runs the restaurant with two Thai staff: chef Boonlert Chaingam, who has experience working at a luxury hotel in Thailand, and restaurant manager Sureeporn Jaila, who speaks fluent Japanese.
Hashimoto said initially he did not like the taste of nam pla fish sauce, a staple ingredient in Thai dishes, but after frequent visits to Thailand with his Thai wife, he gradually came to love the cuisine.
His hobby is farming, and he leases over 1,000 square meters of land to grow produce for the restaurant. He grows over 20 kinds of Japanese and Thai vegetables, fruits and herbs, such as papayas, coriander and red peppers.
“By using fresh, reliable and safe ingredients, I wanted to serve uncompromising dishes to my customers,” he said.
One of the restaurant’s popular dishes is a chili-papaya som tam salad served with raw oysters (¥1,280), which go surprisingly well with the spicy dressing. Although raw oysters are popular in Japan, they do not feature in traditional Thai cuisine.
Other popular dishes include crispy coriander tempura (¥780), which is served with a sweet-and-sour dipping sauce, and stir-fried Chinese morning glory (¥880), with a garlic and red pepper seasoning that is not overpoweringly hot but spicy enough to stimulate your appetite.
Although many people consider tom yam kung to be representative of Thai cuisine, Hashimoto said there are a broad range of traditional Thai dishes. At Ruwhan Thai, the chef alters the flavor to suit the tastes of individual customers. So even if you don’t like very spicy food, you can easily enjoy authentic Thai dishes.
The restaurant attracts a broad range of diners, including foreign university students, locals and Thai cuisine aficionados.
A 92-year-old regular customer who lives in the neighborhood said: “ I used to visit Thailand when I was younger. This restaurant brings back memories.”
When opening the restaurant five years ago, Hashimoto hoped to create a space where people could relax and enjoy Thai dishes for a reasonable price. “It’s a comfortable place to spend time,” he said, describing the 20-seat capacity restaurant. “Feel free to drop by. You’ll feel like you were in Thailand.”
Open: 11 a.m. - 11 p.m. (L.O. 3 p.m for lunch and 10:30 p.m. for dinner)
Address: 1111-9 Matsudo, Matsudo, Chiba Prefecture
Credit cards not accepted.
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