New Thai restaurant Funky Elephant to open in West Berkeley next year

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A new “fun” and “fresh” Thai restaurant called Funky Elephant is expected to open at 1313 Ninth St. on Jan. 4, 2018.

Supasit Puttikaew, former chef de cuisine at Hawker Fare — a Lao Isaan eatery in San Francisco — is opening Funky Elephant with his wife in Berkeley. The restaurant will be located near Farm Burger and Philz Coffee in the Gilman District. Puttikaew said he felt the location was a good place for a start-up due to the convenience in size and affordability.

According to Puttikaew, opening up a restaurant is everyone’s dream in the restaurant industry.

“It’s all about chance and all about opportunity,” Puttikaew said. “Once I got the chance and the opportunity, I (went) for it.”

Several community members expressed support for expanding Berkeley’s Thai food scene.

Tom Harvey, a partner of Farm Burger, said opening up a new Thai restaurant will broaden the diversity in the area.

“As much as we love Farm Burger, it’s nice to have another place to eat close by,” Harvey said. “The more diversity, the better.”

UC Berkeley senior exchange student Ace Yang said that he was dissatisfied with the quality of service from the Thai restaurants that he’s been to in Berkeley. He added, however, that he feels that another Thai restaurant will offer more variety to what the restaurants in Berkeley have to offer.

Zach Santos, a prospective UC Berkeley transfer student, said he has enjoyed many Thai restaurants in Berkeley. Santos also said he is very supportive of small businesses trying to open up in the area.

“I am all for people opening their own business,” Santos said. “If (a new Thai restaurant) opens, cool, I get to try a new one.”

Santos said he hopes that Funky Elephant becomes a place that college students can go to in order to attend special events as opposed to being a traditional restaurant.

Puttikaew said he did not want to make another typical Thai restaurant that only cares about making profits.

“(Other restaurants) put money in and they get money back,” Puttikaew said. “But do they care enough about the food? I’m not sure.”

He said that some Thai restaurants use store-bought ingredients, as opposed to making them from scratch. With Funky Elephant, Puttikaew said he hopes to raise the standard for Thai restaurants in Berkeley and the East Bay.

In contrast to some other Thai restaurants, Hawker Fare makes all of its ingredients fresh and from scratch, according to Puttikaew. He said Hawker Fare has a high standard and that he hopes to implement these practices with Funky Elephant as well.

Puttikaew added that one of his priorities for his new restaurant is ensuring that customers get the respect they deserve.

“Everyone can cook at home and everyone can cook at the restaurant, but if you want to become a chef, it’s different now,” Puttikaew said. “You have to have passion. It’s about love, care and passion about cooking.”

Contact Mark Henry Salupen at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @salupen_markdc.