By Sylvan Hardy
When Ronny Bustamante and Vera Boonyatarp heard that Cuenca’s Thai Connection restaurant was for sale, the timing couldn’t have been better.
“We were living in Quito at the time and were ready to make a change in our lives,” says Ronny. “We had been talking about starting a restaurant and the opportunity turned out to be a great match. I studied restaurant and hospitality management in college and Vera is from Thailand and is an excellent Thai cook.”
The Thai Connection’s first owners, Mex and Wan Fischer, had established a solid reputation and built a loyal clientele before they decided to return Mex’s home in Austria, Ronny says. “All we needed to do was add some new dishes and our own style and energy to the business.”
Ronny, originally from Loja, met Vera when the two worked in the jewelry business in New York City. Ronny was a diamond merchant and Vera was in the sales department of one the city’s largest design and sales firms. “Even in New York, before we came back to Ecuador, food was at the center of our lives and, because of Vera’s great skills, it was mostly Thai food,” Ronnie says.
In their ninth month of running the restaurant, Vera says she and Ronny have focused on customer service. “This can be a tough business and it’s easy to forget how important it is to take care of your guests,” she says. “I never forget to treat our customers the way I would want to be treated if I walked through the door. It’s a good way to make friends.”
Although Vera, who left Thailand after high school to attend college in New York, has added Vietnamese and Korean dishes, the restaurant menu remains mostly unchanged from Mex’s and Wan’s ownership. “We offer the traditional choices you would expect from a Thai restaurant and there was no need to change that,” says Vera, adding that many of the dishes come with a vegetarian option.
Among the traditions that Vera and Ronny have maintained at Thai Connection are the low prices.
Main courses include such Thai mainstays as Pad Thai, mixed stir-fried vegetables and Thai fried rice, with a choice or mix of chicken, pork or shrimp, or vegetarian ($6.60 to $9.90). Other offerings include chicken with ginger ($8.80), chicken or pork with cashew nuts ($9.90), chicken in pineapple sauce ($8.80) and spicy minced beef ($7.90).
Vera has added one of her Vietnamese favorites to the menu, Kimchi Pork Fried Rice with pork, garlic, kimchi, tofu, scallion and sesame ($7.90 or $6.60 without pork).
The soups, which are a meal in themselves, are Tom Yun Goong, Tom Khu Gai, Green Curry and Thai Noodles (all $10).
Appetizers include Thai spring rolls ($6.50) and chicken satay ($7.50) and Vera’s addition of Vietnamese summer rolls, which include shrimp, rice noodles, cucumber, carrots and mint in a rice wrapper in a sweet sauce with ground peanuts.
According to Vera, most dishes can be spiced to order, as picante or mild as the customer wants.
For those who have not visited the Thai Connection recently, Ronny says come on by to check out the old standards as well as the new offerings. “We’re always looking to make new friends,” he says.
Thai Connection, Honorato Vasquez 6-39 between Hermano Miguel and Presidente Borrero; Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 10 p.m.; Phone: 098 704 6607 or 284 6793; Facebook