Little Italy just won the Thai food lottery: the neighbourhood just welcomed its first Thai restaurant, and it’s a big deal.
Épicerie Pumpui opened up on Sunday (giving would-be customers to order to votez in the city election, then mangez at the new St-Zotique establishment. As reported back in August, it’s from a trio that includes Jesse Mulder, who used to run north-side Thai delivery service Chak Wow on and off since 2012, and has been on the receiving end of “when are you going to open a restaurant?” questions ever since.
Pumpui is a casual, counter-service affair (Mulder noted that this was contrary to the general tendency for Thai restaurants in the city to be a little more high-end), with just a handful of seats, and a small grocery section with curry pastes and imported Thai products. The set-up is based on lan khao gangs, a combined curry shop and grocery store that is common in Thailand but mostly nonexistent in North America.
The Pumpui team also received a free publicity bump after the project became public: local “content” purveyor MTL Blog misreported that the restaurant would be Indian; ignoring a bizarre back and forth where the website appeared to ask Épicerie Pumpui for money to correct the error.
Mulder is Canadian but has spent substantial time since the age of 20 living in Thailand and learning Thai culinary skills, from staying with a family, right through to a stage at celebrated Bangkok restaurant Nahm; Mulder also has solid connections with Montreal’s small Thai community.
While curries and noodles will figure prominently, Mulder’s menus typically shy away from the Westernized standards like pad thai and green curry, opting for lesser-known dishes: the menu will likely rotate frequently, but his repertoire includes gaeng leuang, a southern Thai turmeric and chili curry, and gaeng hunglay, a mildly-spiced Burmese pork belly and ginger curry.
It’s all rounded out with kafae boran (similar to Vietnamese coffee, made with condensed milk) and Pumpui is also proudly selling oh-so-cool flavoured sparkling water Lacroix, popular in the US but only just arriving on the Canadian market.
STATUS — Épicerie Pumpui is open at 83 St-Zotique E, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m daily (closed Tuesdays).