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Queen of Cuisine

Happy Anniversary, Sawatdee

Thirty years in the restaurant biz is cause not only for celebration, but a victory lap for any owner who’s beat the odds. (A huge number of restaurants fail within that very first, crucial, year, and scores of others never make the five-year mark.)

Supenn Harrison, owner of Sawatdee, the cities’ oldest and most venerated Thai restaurant, has beaten those odds and then some. Back in 1983, when the eggrolls she provided for colleagues at work and then sold at the State Fair spurred her to launch a full-blown restaurant showcasing the cuisine of her native land, businesses owned by women were scanty, to say the least, and those operated by immigrants even more rare. Still, Supenn is nothing if not success-driven … and feisty.

Today she oversees four Sawatdee restaurants in downtown Minneapolis, downtown St. Paul, Maple Grove and Eden Prairie (associates operate three additional Sawatdees, too). To salute 30 years of serving those famous eggrolls, and a whole lot more, she’s offering, on occasion (check the website at for dates) a sumptuous, six-course feast for only $30 (optional wine pairings, $15).

I stopped at her temple of Thai delights on South Washington Avenue (near the Guthrie) to check it out.

The meal began with a choice of soups, starting with Tuam Yum—heaven in a bowl, which bounced with a bevy of mushrooms in a broth lively with lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and enough Thai chilis to snap any dormant palate to attention. Loved it! The quail egg soup choice boasts three hardcooked beauties bobbing amid peas and carrots in a soothing, slightly thickened broth. Then come those iconic eggrolls, with super-crisp veggies under their slender, greaseless cloak.
Next up, a pleasant salad composed of onions, tomatoes and cukes amid a frill of greens, all supporting thin ribbons of pork, pink shrimp and a crunchy toss of peanuts. A light rice vinegar/sugar dressing is all this cast list needs.

Two main courses share the spotlight: a stir fry highlighting super-fresh and crisp sweet peppers and other inmates of the garden as support players for a cadre of supersized shrimp, sweet and bouncy as you please. Another plate proffers the Holy Basil Supreme—a lode of that pungent, leafy herb amid onions, jalapenos, mint and other perky flavors mingling with your choice of pork or chicken, bathed in a simple, slightly sweet sauce.

Dessert cleansed our pulsing palates via a cool and comforting duo of supremely sweet, fresh mango and mango ice cream. We sipped the last of our wine—a Malbec, which followed a fruity Pinot Grigio and more full-bodied Chardonnay. By autumn, it’s more than likely a beer flight will be on tap, too—a perfect partner for those lively Thai flavors. Bargain hunters, Sawatdee also is offering a three-course dinner for two for only $30: soup, egg roll, and shrimp.

Happy anniversary, Sawatdee, and here’s hoping for many more. Especially when the customer is the one who gets the gifts.

Four locations.



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