Pakpao Has Lost its Way

Categories: Complaint Desk

Catherine Downes
The fried catfish and red curry of old-time Pakpao
If you haven't been in a while, there have been a lot of changes at the Design District Thai restaurant Pakpao. Owners Richard and Tiffanee Ellman first got attention when they asked chef Eddie Thretipthuangsin to leave late last year. They said they wanted to make Pakpao a "national brand," and the restaurant remained without a chef until recently, when Jet Tila was announced as both chef and partner.

Tila was introduced as a celebrity chef -- he had television appearances with Anthony Bourdain, Iron Chef and others to his credit. He also cooked in restaurants in Las Vegas, where he lives, so he had no intention of working the line in Pakpao full-time. Instead, Tila is leaving a few cooks in Dallas, so a member of "Team Tila" was always in the kitchen. He plans to drop in occasionally.

While he was last here, Tila reworked the menu, adding a number of his own dishes to the plates that Thretipthuangsin left behind. It was his attempt at putting his stamp on the restaurant without breaking what already worked so well. When the kitchen was under Thretipthuangsin's eye, The Dallas Morning News awarded three stars and the Observer gave a positive review, too. But after the two lunches I've had there recently, I think those old dishes are looking a little stale. Occasionally, it seems, isn't often enough.

Take the spicy red curry catfish. When I reviewed the restaurant last summer, I compared the dish to eating a rocket, an intense heat partnered with blasts of citrus. The heat is still there, but dull and brown herbs replaced the bright flavor of kaffir lime leaves. The vegetables were downgraded from delicate, miniature squashes of the past to large hunks of common yellow squash and Thai eggplants. Both vegetables were undercooked, and the topping of fried basil leaves was gone too. Everything special about the dish had been stripped away. All that was left was the burn and salty catfish.

I tried a duck curry, too, and was disappointed for similar reasons. It's obvious that the lack of a full-time chef in the kitchen has compromised some of the attributes that used to make Pakpao special. Thretipthuangsin's recipes have meandered since he's left, and not in a positive direction.


Location Info

Pakpao Thai Food

1628 Oak Lawn Ave., Dallas, TX

Category: Restaurant

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Bummer! What about the new location about to open in West Plano?? Same old, same old?


I wanted to try the chef's new advertised dishes, but the menu offered at lunch looked the same as always. I ended up ordering the Bamboo Shoot salad and Pomelo salad. Both dishes seemed to not have changed that much.

Our favorite Thai place is Bambu in Richardson. It's a long drive from downtown Dallas where we live, but completely worth it. We pretty much stick to ordering off the blackboard, although many items on the menu are fantastic.

Sharon_Moreanus topcommenter

Yes a change for the worse.

His protege in the kitchen is pretty weak.

I don't see a national branding with this current project.

IMO...poor choice of partner since he is with MAK already. A celebrity name doesn't equal success.

I did have a chance to stop in at chef eddys new place Bite City Grill recently while at rockin the river in FTW. DELISH!

primi_timpano topcommenter

So where is authentic Thai in the Dallas area? Ideally within NW Highway and hopefully not beyond 635? CrushCraft is my current favorite but their menu is limited.


I totally agree, it is just not the "special" place it once was.  I was going at least once a week but no longer.  Even the service has slipped badly.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

I see what you mean.  That platter could be from any fair-to-middling generic "Chinese restaurant".  糖醋里脊, maybe.


We have noticed the same thing.  I'm afraid it is turning into just another Thai place, only overpriced.


@primi_timpano I haven't been there in years, but I really liked Tukta Thai whenever I went there. Its is on Plano Road and Walnut Hill. It was the Thai restaurant my Thai friends always went to.

Sotiredofitall topcommenter

@scott.reitz @primi_timpano Disappointing - liked CrushCraft   Guess I'll go back with Royal Thai

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