Montreal’s small Thai food scene gets a little bigger this fall, as neighbourhood curry shop Epicerie Pumpui is set to open on St-Zotique East in Little Italy.
It comes from a trio that includes chef Jesse Mulder, who has run Thai delivery service Chak Wow on-and-off since 2012, as well as doing pop-ups at Sparrow and the now-closed Bethlehem XXX. He’s joined by two partners: Jesse Massumi, who has experience at L’Express and later managing Mile End’s Voro and Waverly, and mechanical engineer Xavier Cloutier.
Mulder has spent much of his life since the age of 20 living and learning culinary skills in Thailand, and he tells Eater that the plan is to open a small part-épicerie, part-curry counter, common in Thailand but mostly nonexistent in North America.
“In Thailand you have these really old school restaurants called lan khao gang — the literal translation is “shop rice curry”...we wanted to bring that here because it doesn’t exist [in Montreal]”.
It’ll be a casual affair, particularly for a city where most Thai restaurants skew a little more towards formal dining settings — the space, which will be designed by architect Clothilde Caille-Levesque, is on St-Zotique near Casgrain. It’ll have seating for just 12 people, although Mulder mentions the possibility of offering packed picnics in metal tiffins (like lunch boxes), to take to nearby Little Italy Park, once next summer rolls around.
Mulder says that curries will make up a large part of the menu, served with noodles or rice (some curries may be soup-like, too — what constitutes a curry can be a little ambiguous in Thai cuisine, he notes). A few stir-fry type dishes prepared à la minute will be on offer too, alongside some fried snacks like curry puffs. The prices aren’t locked in yet, but Mulder says he’s making a concerted effort to keep it affordable.
Alongside food, Pumpui will have kafae boran — an iced coffee, not dissimilar to pourover, according to Massumi.
“It’s very sweet and milky, think of Vietnamese coffee.”
Some imported beers will round out the offerings, although these will be take-out only due to Pumpui’s license.
The shop side of the operation will sell the imported ingredients used in the kitchen, and Mulder says he’s hoping to sell some other imported items difficult to obtain in Canada, like southeast Asian soaps or powders.
It may be a little unusual for Canadians to open a place like Pumpui in a city where Thai restaurants are predominantly Thai-owned. But Mulder has spent some one-third of his life either in Thailand or between Thailand and Canada, including a stage at prominent Bangkok restaurant Nam, and training from local Thai chefs including Nimnuan Wongsaray (who focused on northern Thai cuisine), Takkinai Rutanopoe, and Mae Sri Bua.
Mulder also has a range of connections within the Thai community in Montreal, many of whom are excited about Pumpui.
“My Thai clients and friends don’t seem to have any problem. Quite the opposite, they’re quite thrilled.”
“The due diligence that we see as important here is that we have links with the Thai community.”
Massumi adds that Pumpui won’t really be in direct competition with other Thai restaurants — as there’s not a single Thai restaurant in Little Italy (and most others in the city are much more formal).
“I wouldn’t want to open in a neighbourhood where it felt like I was encroaching. That’s why we’re doing it in Little Italy.”
Expect Epicerie Pumpui to open sometime around October.