Siam Orchid Celebrates 30th Anniversary During Pandemic

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(Tristan Shaughnessy, Photographer)
Owner of Siam Orchid Thai restaurant, Pepsi Phanmongkol and his family have been serving loyal customers since the early 90s. Pivoting during the pandemic was a challenge, but business is now picking back up.

    In 1991, Pepsi Phanmongkol noticed something about Orinda, something significant: there were no Thai restaurants in the city. Absolutely none. So, he opened the Siam Orchid. Now, 30 years later, he says the restaurant is still serving regulars from the ‘90s.
    Located at 23 Orinda Way, Siam Orchid has had a long history, but its award-winning meals have mostly stayed the same. According to Phanmongkol, his wife, Lek, and brother, Nicky, have been cooking for restaurant patrons since its debut. But last year, to stay open, the eatery had to adapt to a pandemic.
    Phanmongkol said when lockdown orders came last March the Siam Orchid’s business took an immediate nosedive: “Even for me, it was shocking. For the restaurant to be shutting down – like wow! It was a really big hit.”
    Pivoting exclusively to takeout orders, Phanmongkol said Orindans were initially slow changing dining habits but, by May, 2020, they were used to the idea of ordering takeout. Yet, sales were still noticeably lower compared to pre-pandemic levels.
    Besides worrying about the number of customers, Phanmongkol mentioned that the cost of his ingredients increased. While ordering produce for the restaurant during the pandemic, he said, food deliveries became not only more pricey but also more delayed.
    Despite these challenges, Siam Orchid is still up and running, something Phanmongkol attributes to the type of food served: “Because my restaurant serves family style, takeout might be good for customers. You got the fancy restaurants – the food is not good for takeout.”
    Reflecting on the past few months, Phanmongkol said things have been getting better for the restaurant as more Orindans get vaccinated. But, he is still cautiously waiting for when Siam Orchid reaches pre-pandemic numbers of customers.
    Offering dine-in or takeout options while staffing a full bar, the restaurant serves lunch Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and dinner everyday from 4:30 to 9 p.m.
    Even with new families in the city, Phanmongkol said the area is by and large the same as when he first opened his restaurant.
    “I just thank the people who live in Orinda for supporting my restaurant for 30 years,” he said.

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