Randolph Vermont restaurants
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"This food is not shy in any sense, " Connor Morgan told Seven Days last spring, weeks before his family opened Saap, where he is the general manager. Located in a Queen Anne Victorian perched on a knoll on the outskirts of Randolph, the restaurant is Vermont's first to serve cuisine rooted in Thailand's northeastern region, Isan.
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- Nisachon "Rung" Morgan
The chef is Nisachon "Rung" Morgan, whose homeland borders on Laos and Cambodia. It's a place where the food is spicy and the flavors bold, where fresh fruits and vegetables make merry with delicately spiced meats, pungent herbs and sauces, and lots of sticky rice.
Rung runs the kitchen with her husband, Steve Morgan, a former New England Culinary Institute instructor trained in classical French cookery. By day, he manages the galley at Gifford Medical Center. By night, he helps at the restaurant.
Connor Morgan, Steve's son, is a friendly fellow who spent a year learning the ropes at Café Shelburne. He holds down Saap's dining room in the parlor level of the stately 1880s house. The 10, 000-square-foot manse is also home to the White River Craft Center, which offers gallery space, studios and coursework in arts including weaving, stained glass and film photography.
From the Saap dining room, the view nods west down Randolph Avenue, where the summer's evening sun sinks over the village.
But these assets — except, perhaps, the view — were irrelevant to my visits. As is often the case, I was just there for the food. And I arrived hopeful that Rung's cooking would be as "unapologetic in its bold flavors and fermented kind of funkiness" as Connor had predicted back in March.
On a busy Friday, my guests and I sat in the far corner of the long, open room. The space is modest in its utilitarian simplicity, and sound seems to ricochet off the walls. Still, the volume never rises above a sociable hum. Dinner began with a delivery of steaming white hand towels, a refreshing touch on a humid summer night.
Drinks are beer and wine only. Suds flow from 14th Star Brewing, Rock Art Brewery and, notably, from nearby Bent Hill Brewery, where Mike Czok is developing pairing swills for Saap's menu. Pale Thai lagers and East Coast craft brews round out the options.
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