If you thought all Thai restaurants were created equal, the owner of Amarit Thai Restaurant in Palm Harbor suggests that you may want to think again.
Some are overpriced, some aren’t so clean and others don’t have owners who are actually from Thailand, says Montha Hatfield, owner and head chef of Amarit Thai, located in the Shoppes of Boot Ranch at 328 East Lake Rd.
Hatfield insists her Thai establishment is different than all the others because hers is exactly the opposite and has more to offer.
“Some menu items you can’t find at any other Thai restaurant,” said Hatfield, 49. “The way I cook and the process I do is different.”
Tucked conspicuously between a GameStop video game store and a UPS branch sits Amarit Thai, quite possibly the most authentic Thai restaurant in the area.
Hatfield credits her restaurant’s popularity and success to its cleanliness, fair prices, good quality and the fact that she was born and raised in Thailand and not Laos, a country directly to the northeast in Asia, where she says many Thai restaurant owners are from.
A Dream Come True
It was marriage that brought Hatfield to the United States about 15 years ago. She lived in Portland, ME for about a year before eventually moving to Tarpon Springs to be closer to her mother-in-law.
Hatfield then took on work in the kitchen of a local Thai restaurant. Soon after, she developed dreams of owning her own establishment.
“I dreamed I could own my own restaurant and take care of my family in Thailand,” said Hatfield. “And pay bills, too.”
And with the help of a couple friends, she made that dream come true. Hatfield opened Amarit Thai Restaurant around 2002.
She says that she was using her profits from the restaurant to help two of her sons pay for college and to help her mother, all of whom still live in Thailand, adding that her two sons recently graduated.
“Now I have to take care of my own life,” said Hatfield. “I am too old already.”
Though she’s recently been focusing more on herself, Hatfield says she works seven days a week and never takes any vacations.
“I am concerned about my food, too,” said Hatfield. “I have to control my kitchen and make my food come out perfect.”
What's on the Menu?
Hatfield says some of her restaurant’s most popular menu items include pad thai, panang curry, other various curry dishes and spring rolls. She says her favorite dishes are yum duck salad and duck curry with pineapple.
And some of Hatfield's menu items can’t be found at other Thai places, she says, such as thai noodle rolls and black sticky rice, a dark, grainy rice that is naturally sweet.
“They don’t want to do it because it’s a lot to do,” said Hatfield of other Thai restaurant chefs.
Hatfield even uses spices in her cooking that are locally home grown by one of her employees, such as kaffir lime leaf, Thai basil, ginger and galangal, a spice in the ginger family.
She added that she also customizes the spiciness of her clients’ orders according to their preferences, with the options of mild, medium, hot and an extra-spicy flavor called Thai hot.
She added that she makes her customers' meals as if they were her own.
“Whatever we eat, the customer eats like us,” she said of the authenticity of her food.
Despite the ever-changing state of the economy, Hatfield says the costs of her meals have remained the same, with prices ranging from $3.95 for veggie egg rolls to $24.95 for a crispy duck sizzling platter.
Hatfield plans to visit her home in Thailand next year and bring back decorations and new menu items for the restaurant. She also plans to remain busy working hard in her kitchen.
“Work at a restaurant — you don’t have a life,” said Hatfield. “I think people at restaurants — they’re the same as me.”
If you go
Mon. - Fri.: 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Mon. - Sat.: 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Sun.: 4:30 p.m. - 9 p.m.
For more information, call 727-789-9186 or visit amaritthaimenu.com.