Local culinary institution Satdha Thai is celebrating a decade of delicious vegan dishes with a sense of gratitude for all the support they’ve received and optimism for the future of their beloved business.
The philosophy of a meal at Satdha is about more than just food, the proprietors want it to be a thrilling experience of fresh ingredients, new ideas, and great people. The gourmet, plant-based Thai restaurant located on Lincoln Blvd in Santa Monica is embodying that belief while celebrating their 10 year anniversary this month as it takes traditional Thai cuisine and transforms expectations with their plant-based spin.
To celebrate 10 years of success, the restaurant is hosting an anniversary dinner on November 9, featuring a unique 10 course tasting menu. The brand new dishes showcase Chef Gunn Pankum’s exemplary skill and the diversity of flavors found in Thai and plant-based cuisine.
“We choose the recipes that … we don’t see vegan[s] making before. It’s really exciting. And all my team is so excited to share what we’re going to make with our guests. It’s going to be amazing,” said Pankum.
At Satdha, being plant-based isn’t as much about being vegan as much as it is about the simple pleasure of eating delicious, high quality ingredients. There is no plant-based meat on the menu, and Pankum purchases all of her produce from local farmers markets and Thai vendors, holding her restaurant to the highest standards of excellence. Her goal is to share the beauty of plant-based cooking beyond the vegan community and open up people’s minds to try something different.
Surviving 10 years is an accomplishment for any business and arguably more so for those in the food industry who have seen their entire world shattered by Covid induced lockdowns, rising costs and a turbulent labor market. However, Chef Pankum has drawn new strength from her restaurant’s trials and tribulations.
“Starting the restaurant [is] really exciting for a chef. And I think the pandemic, good or bad, gave me that lift to say, ‘I have to do this. Again.’ We are going to do this, we’re going to make it better and we’re going to … bring something amazing to the guests. They haven’t been here for two years and when they come in they’re super happy, excited to see us still here. That’s a special experience when [a] customer [is] really almost there with us all the time even though you don’t see them,” said Chef Pankum.
She said she doesn’t dwell on the challenges of running a restaurant because the joys of the work are so fulfilling.
“But I, to be honest, I don’t remember the low moment so much. Because the high moment is just like nothing [else] it’s worth it,” she said. “You know when one customer came in just so excited and happy to be here, before they leave, they stop by in front of the counter and then they make sure they want to share with us like how good the experience that they just had, that how much they love the food.”
She said many gets make the effort to express how much they enjoy the experience and those interactions keep her motivated for the next service.
Born and raised in Thailand, Pankum expresses her identity through her cuisine and her restaurant. Her culinary interests brought her to the US in 1997, where she first began working at an ice cream shop, then a Starbucks, before she opened Satdha, and achieved her American dream.
Being in LA heavily shaped her perspective on food, especially the rising popularity of plant-based meals. Seeing the rise of plant-based establishments left Pankum in awe of vegan cuisine and gave her the inspiration to emulate it through what she knows best: traditional Thai food.
“That really inspired me … You know what, if we do vegan in Thai version? That’s how it started to build up my world in veganism,” she said. Looking forward to the next ten years, Pankum has big plans. As she begins work on a cookbook and seasoning line, she wants to share her skills and passion for cooking in everyone’s home.
“Eventually though, at some point I would like to help a home chef to be able to cook a good meal at home,” said Pankum.
For now though, Pankum and her team are proudly preparing for their anniversary dinner, and they want to thank the Santa Monica community for being so supportive for the last 10 years.
Satdha Plant Based Thai Kitchen is located at 2218 Lincoln Blvd. Purchase anniversary tickets or place a pickup order online at satdhakitchen.com
Antoinette Damico, Daily Press intern