If you pay any attention to Bay Area Food Instagram, you already know Farmhouse Kitchen. The local Thai mini-chain is known on platforms like Instagram for its huge following, influential plating and thoughtfully presented takeout, while its sleek, jazzy dining rooms make an actual sit-down visit a treat. Berkeley residents rejoiced when the restaurant announced plans to open in a prominent Shattuck Avenue space in 2019, but the spot has remained dark ever since. According to a Farmhouse spokesperson, however, the restaurant remains committed to Berkeley, and will open by the end of 2021.
Founded by chef Kasem “Pop” Saengsawang and Iing Chatterjee, the 6-year-old company began as a small San Francisco spot in 2015 and quickly gained a reputation as a hip and selfie-worthy place that also served excellent food. A Michelin Bib Gourmand nod soon followed, acknowledging Farmhouse’s clever twists on classics like a lobster-laden pad Thai and over-the-top street food dishes like the “basil bomb” (prik nam pla-doused calamari, prawns, scallops, crispy pork belly and minced pork, served over blue rice and topped with a fried egg). The restaurant swiftly expanded, opening outposts in Menlo Park, Portland and Oakland; it also launched spinoffs like Montclair Village’s Daughter Thai and a fast casual version called Farmhouse Express with locations in SF and San Leandro.
Back in June 2019, co-owner Atikom “Arty” Larpnampha confirmed to Nosh that the restaurant had purchased 1549 Shattuck Ave., the two-story building that was home to Dara Thai Lao Cuisine — the first restaurant in Berkeley to serve Laotian dishes — since 1992. Dara closed in the summer of 2019, and Farmhouse moved in, beginning a renovation project that Farmhouse managing director Boom Wanvisa said “took longer than expected.” That includes an upgrade to the building’s rooftop space, which will be turned into a breezy outdoor dining area.
This makes sense, of course: Imagine even the most pristine restaurant space after 27 years of use and you’re imagining a pretty significant overhaul. Now factor in Farmhouse’s detail-oriented dining rooms, and you can see why Larpnampha’s hope to open within months of getting the keys might have been a bit too ambitious.
Then, of course, there’s the pandemic. That “stopped things for a while,” Wanvisa said. The coronavirus crisis, combined with the company’s silence regarding the Berkeley spot, prompted at least one Nosh reader to wonder if the restaurant would open at all.
According to Wanvisa, though, Berkeley residents will only have to wait a bit longer for their hat yai fried chicken (that’s the photo at the top of this page: Southern-fried Mary’s Chicken dressed in turmeric and herbs, and served with roti, more of that blue rice, and fried shallots, cucumber pickles and potato yellow dipping curry). “We will be open by the end of 2021,” she said, but couldn’t be more specific because “as you know, everything is taking longer these days.” Until then, there’s the Farmhouse in Jack London Square (336 Water St.) to feed your hat yai needs, or just to tag as you post your latest takeout photos for your followers.
When it opens, Farmhouse Kitchen will be located at 1549 Shattuck Ave. (near Cedar Street), Berkeley.