Tuesday, September 17, 2019

NaRai expands with soon-to-open Mangosteen Thai Street Food

Posted By on Tue, Sep 17, 2019 at 3:15 PM

click to enlarge Mango-topped catfish served at a preview meal. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Mango-topped catfish served at a preview meal.

NaRai Thai Restaurant and NaRai Siam Cuisine will soon have a sister restaurant at 383 Spectrum Loop (off Voyager Pkwy., near North Gate Blvd.) called Mangosteen Thai Street Food.

The trio of eateries' owner, Jasmine Andrew, tentatively plans to launch the new venture on Wednesday, Sept. 25. (Keep an eye on NaRai's Facebook page for details, for now.)
click to enlarge Owner Jasmine Andrew (second from right) with several of Mangosteen's staff. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Owner Jasmine Andrew (second from right) with several of Mangosteen's staff.

What immediately sets Mangosteen — named after the healthful tropical fruit — apart from NaRai's two full-service locations (which themselves differ slightly with menu offerings) is its counter-service model.

Guests will enter and approach a hot line, set up almost as buffet would be, and select menu items which will be pre-prepared for on-the-go eaters; only chicken-broth soups will be made-to-order with protein options like pork and shrimp.

And within six months, Andrew hopes to utilize a drive-thru window that's built and ready, once the kitchen comes up to speed and gauges customer volume and capacity.
click to enlarge Tentative opening date: September 25. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Tentative opening date: September 25.

The original Rockrimmon-area NaRai opened in 2008, followed by the Cheyenne Mountain location in 2014. This Spectrum Loop building has sat vacant for roughly a couple years, formerly hosting a Taco Bueno. Andrew says she's had her eye on it for some time and finally decided to pull the trigger and give a third restaurant a go. "This will be my last one," she jokes, saying "no more."

Both the other locations close during the middle of the day to reset between lunch and dinner service, but here, she says "I want to stay open all day. I want to try something new. I wanted a faster-paced restaurant."
click to enlarge Lemongrass chicken with turmeric rice. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Lemongrass chicken with turmeric rice.

With that in mind, she also wanted to offer menu items not seen at her other spots in town, and perhaps not served by any local Thai eateries. A few are true street-food items in Thailand; others are popular at sit-down places.

At a preview meal we attended, Andrew presented vibrant items like lemongrass chicken with golden turmeric rice; catfish topped in a mango relish spiced by red onions and chiles; grilled pork with tamarind-chile dipping sauce; battered fried chicken with broth-infused rice; papaya salad, and assorted pot stickers with ginger sauce.

Initially Andrew didn't even want to offer Pad Thai at the new spot, to distinguish it, but her customers pressed her on the matter, so she conceded, but has opted to make it with a thinner noodle, to change at least one aspect of the popular dish.
click to enlarge Pot stickers. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Pot stickers.

The new location will have a beer and wine license. As for the name, Andrew says people love mangos, so having that as part of the name (despite it being a completely different fruit than mangosteen) should attract attention, she believes. No, there's no actual mangosteen item on the opening menu at present — I suggested an ice cream in the future, maybe?

She has designed the space with a stark, modern sensibility, utilizing white and black tiles at the counter, dark wood floors and tables, and a fun, defining purple booth and seat upholstery that's almost eggplant purple, but also roughly the color of mangosteen skins too. 
click to enlarge Guest and staff enjoy food together at a preview meal. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Guest and staff enjoy food together at a preview meal.

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