IN THE KITCHEN Cholada Aramthip managed Khao Sarn, her family’s popular Thai restaurant in Coolidge Corner, for eight years prior to its closure this past June. Alongside her boyfriend, Paul Reeves, and her sister, Nuttida, she is now the co-owner of LeDu Thai Eatery in Newtonville, where they pay homage to their family’s heritage (both sisters were born in Thailand) and mimic the “fun” Asian restaurants the owners have encountered during travels in Europe and beyond.
THE LOCALE Aramthip and Reeves live in Newtonville, a short walk from their new venture, which opened last December in a Walnut Street storefront that previously housed a cupcake shop. The space, which required significant buildout, is only 700 square feet, with a few tables and counter seating indoors and a couple of tables outside in warmer weather. Diners order at the counter and can watch their dishes bring prepared in the open kitchen. Much of LeDu’s business is takeout; the restaurant recently added online ordering and delivery.
ON THE MENU LeDu’s compact space lends itself to a simpler, back-to-basics menu grounded in some Khao Sarn favorites but reimagined for quick-service customers. “We didn’t want to serve whole fish because the kitchen is so small, [but] these are the dishes we love from Khao Sarn — recipes we’re known for,” Aramthip said. Seasonality steers the menu, which is appropriate as LeDu means “season” in Thai. During fall, for example, that means chicken coconut soup and pumpkin curry can make welcome appearances.
The menu contains the typical appetizer-entree-dessert construct, but LeDu also specifically gears “lunch set” offerings to a certain segment of the lunchtime crowd — Newton North High School students, as the school is located just down the road. Moreover, “we wanted to do something fun,” Aramthip said. (Perhaps that’s also part of the reasoning behind catchy menu section headers “keep calm and curry on” and “wok this way.”) Priced at $10.50 to $11.50, and served weekdays from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., the sets provide an affordable lunch while also letting diners sample around the menu to find their favorites.
Each is named after a season and comes with two appetizers; some combinations include jasmine rice as well. The fall set is probably the most popular. “Pad Thai and pad see ew fly off the shelves,” Aramthip said. The former thankfully eschews the overwhelming sweetness that frequently pervades pad Thai preparations, while the latter smartly weaves slightly bitter Chinese broccoli through lightly charred wide rice noodles in a blend of light and dark soy sauces. They’re served with a choice of protein; our chicken and tofu selections provided ample sustenance.
Summer sets, also a top seller, are flavored with ginger and lemongrass, and include a spicy pik pow with roasted cashews, chili tamarind sauce, and a colorful bounty of vegetables. Spring sets bring sweet-and-sour popcorn chicken, Chinese broccoli, and garlic chicken or pork, while winter sets emphasize warm curries — red, green, pineapple, and massaman with a choice of protein.
On the appetizers side, the chicken satay ($6) is marinated in coconut and turmeric, grilled on skewers, and bathed in an addictive peanut sauce (which LeDu jars and sells). Crispy tofu triangles ($5) are soaked in a chili gastrique; jalapeño chicken wings ($9) are battered, fried, and liberally spiced; and the chicken dumpling soup ($7) floats homemade dumplings in a broth with scallions, bean sprouts, fried garlic, and cilantro.
For those looking for larger entrees, traditional northern Thailand standouts include khao soi egg noodles ($13) strewn with pickled mustard greens, red onions, scallions, and cilantro; and larb ($10), ground chicken or pork doused with lime juice and dotted with shallots, red peppers, and bright mint leaves.
LeDu Thai Eatery is at 313 Walnut St. in Newtonville; 617-916-1660, www.leduthaieatery.com. Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Sunday, 4 to 9 p.m.Rachel Lebeaux can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.