Photos by Anna Goodson
Sushil Thapa is passionate about Thai food. He began working for Surin Restaurant Group in 1999 while a college student in Birmingham. The Nepal native has worked at all eight of the company’s restaurants in Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, Huntsville, Mountain Brook, Atlanta and Knoxville. Last December, he opened the company’s ninth restaurant, Surin of Thailand Authentic Thai & Sushi Bar, in the old Nick’s location at 3000 Old Canton Road in Fondren.
“I really like Jackson, and I’m very impressed with the Fondren area,” said Sushil. “The people here have been very supportive of our restaurant.” Folks familiar with Nick’s will notice a few changes. “We didn’t make any major changes,” Sushil explained. “We just added a few enhancements to accentuate the restaurant’s theme.”
The most noticeable change is the sushi bar. Patrons can sit around the bar and watch the sushi chefs, or sit at tables surrounding the bar. “Our restaurants have been making sushi since 1993,” said Sushil. Sushi selections include fresh seafood in Nigiri, which include two pieces over finger sushi rice and Sashimi. The Maki sushi is fresh seafood rolled in sushi rice and seaweed and includes six rolls. There is an extensive list of Maki Mono (specialty) sushi offerings. “Our Volcano Roll is a real favorite.” Inside is spicy tuna and fresh cucumber and on the outside is fresh tuna, avocado and eel sauce. The roll is served with a spicy aioli sauce.
Surin is open for lunch and dinner daily, with a $7.35 lunch special Monday through Friday. There are several specials offered, all with a complimentary cup of coconut tofu soup. Some of the more popular dishes include the Roasted Duck with Red Curry, Masaman Chicken and Thai Noodle (Pad Thai). “And of course, we’re in the South, so there’s fried catfish, which we serve with a Thai ginger soy sauce on romaine lettuce,” Sushil said.
The regular menu is extensive, with several starters, including egg rolls, pot stickers with red curry and crab angels. There are two soup choices, Tom Yum Shrimp and Thai Coconut which can be ordered with shrimp, chicken or tofu. Stir fry options can be served with all vegetables, or with the addition of chicken, beef, pork, tofu or shrimp. The Thai curries are heartier dishes. “Two of our most ordered dishes are the Chicken Panang and Masaman Chicken curries,” Sushil said. Noodle and rice dishes are also popular, including fresh steamed white rice stir-fried with egg, tomatoes, white onions, scallions and cilantro. Special entrees are popular as well, especially the Thai Sea Bass, “one of our chef’s specialties,” Basil Duck and Mam Tok Beef. Chef Sommard has been with the Surin Group for 15 years.
The focus of the restaurant is Thai cuisine, but married with American drinks, Japanese sushi and European and American desserts, making Thai food more accessible. “People think of Thai food as being very spicy,” said Sushil. “We adjust seasonings to our customers’ palates. And spiciness doesn’t always mean hot, either.” The menu has a rating system by each menu item, with none to three red peppers, indicating the normal level of spiciness. “If you want more, ask for it! If you prefer less spice, no problem! We want our guests to enjoy their food.” Many of the entrees are vegetarian, and adjustments can be made to accommodate vegetarian diners.
Surin features a happy hour from 4:30 to 7:00 p.m. seven days a week when sushi is offered at half price, and guests get $2 off beer, wine and martinis. Sushil said he gets excited each time Fondren First Thursday rolls around. “We celebrate by offering complimentary soup and beverages with lunch and half off sushi for dinner.”