Farmhouse Kitchen makes its Peninsula debut with new Menlo Park location

Thai restaurant Farmhouse Kitchen has found a new home in Menlo Park.

On Wednesday, chef-owner Kasem “Pop” Saengsawang and co-owner Ling Chatterjee launched their soft opening, where they have begun to offer indoor and patio dining in addition to takeout and delivery.

An imaginative interior has been set up inside the space at 1165 Merrill St. where golden chandeliers hang over a long dining table and colorful flowers adorn the walls.

ALSO: We shadowed a restaurant server for a full shift. This is their new normal.

Regulars of the Oakland and San Francisco locations know that the attention to detail inside the restaurant transfers over to the food itself. The Menlo Park location will have a similar menu to the Oakland and S.F. locations; you can find its vibrant blue rice served with the popular Hat Yai fried chicken.

The Farmhouse Kitchen in Menlo Park will be the fifth restaurant for Saengsawang and Chatterjee. They also have a location in Portland and a Farmhouse Kitchen Express in San Leandro. According to Palo Alto Online, owner Saengsawang plans to be present at the Menlo Park location after recently moving to the area.

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The opening also comes about a week after San Mateo County moved into Tier 2 of California’s four-tired color system. Indoor dining has been reintroduced to the county after banning it earlier this summer. Restaurants can now accommodate diners indoors at 25% capacity.

Farmhouse Kitchen will be open Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for lunch. Dinner service begins Monday to Thursday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Weekend hours are Saturday from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday 12 p.m. to 9 p.m.

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This 95-year-old Peninsula company found a sweet spot during the pandemic: Your kitchen

By Alicia Wallace | CNN Business

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit the US, some businesses held fast and hunkered down. Torani, the 95-year-old company that makes those colorful bottles of flavored syrup at your local coffee shop, didn’t have that luxury.

Torani needed to follow through on a plan that had been years in the making: a relocation of its headquarters and manufacturing operations from South San Francisco to a brand new building across the Bay. The Covid-19 pandemic, however, turned what was already an ambitious and expensive undertaking into a dramatic exercise in operational gymnastics.

Torani was slated to start its move in March to a spacious, 327,000-square-foot San Leandro building that would house its offices and state-of-the-art production lines. It also would serve as a Willy Wonka-esque, tourist-friendly “Flavor Factory” with a coffee-making “receptionista,” a “customer play area” to try some of the 150-plus flavors, and a speakeasy that could be accessed via a secret passageway behind a bookshelf.

But then the shelter-in-place orders came down, and restaurants and cafes were ordered to temporarily close their doors. Torani entered into pandemic planning mode and conducted a financial analysis to determine if it could weather sales drops of 20%, 30% or even 50%.

The company had borrowed around $40 million in loans to invest in its Flavor Factory.

“Could we make it? Could we hold onto everybody?” Torani CEO Melanie Dulbecco told CNN Business. “Could we pay off these loans we just borrowed? Could we keep the business running for our customers and make it?”

The privately held company, which got its start in San Francisco’s “Little Italy” neighborhood of North Beach, has been accustomed to double-digit annual revenue growth for decades. It now was projecting a 40% sales drop for the month of April and bracing for the worst.

Coffee shop sales tanked during that time. According to survey of more than 5,000 shops by payment processor Square, median revenue tumbled 55.4% between March 1 and April 30.

When April was said and done, Torani did have a sales decline on its books, but only 20%.

“And then business came back like crazy,” Dulbecco said.

What happened was that sales of Torani’s syrups started spiking at the retail store level. Americans working remotely during the pandemic had brought their coffee shop habits home with them.

And as the homebound turned to homemaking, Torani syrups and sauces were landing in concoctions such as mixed drinks, kombucha batches, and even sourdough starters, Dulbecco said.

The pickup in store sales also meant that Torani had to increase supplies of its 375-milliliter flip-cap bottles often found at retail. Coffee shops typically buy the bottles that are twice that size.

“We had to shift a lot around in our supply chain to have all the packaging materials,” Dulbecco said.

Torani, which makes syrups used in coffees and Italian sodas, completed a move of its headquarters and manufacturing facility during the pandemic.(Torani) 

Happening in the background of this was the move from

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San Francisco’s Farmhouse Kitchen opens glitzy Thai restaurant in Menlo Park, indoor dining included | Peninsula Foodist | Elena Kadvany

San Francisco Thai restaurant Farmhouse Kitchen has opened a glitzy new location in Menlo Park, offering limited indoor and outdoor dining, takeout and delivery.

Farmhouse Kitchen has revamped the 4,000-square-foot space at 1165 Merrill St., across from the Caltrain station, decking it out with opulent decorations (including handmade gold Thai chandeliers and flower wall), a private dining room, a lounge area with velvet chairs and gleaming full bar. The restaurant opened barely a week after San Mateo County announced that indoor dining could resume at 25% capacity or with 100 people, whichever is fewer.


The ornate dining room at Farmhouse Kitchen in Menlo Park. Photo courtesy Farmhouse Kitchen.

But the “new normal guidelines” for dining in at Farmhouse Kitchen includes a health screening, temperature check, masks required when diners aren’t eating or drinking and parties of no more than six people with reservations capped at 90 minutes. The restaurant also charges a $3 “COVID-19 sanitation fee” per table.

Kasem Saengsawang, a native of Thailand, opened his first Farmhouse Kitchen in San Francisco in 2015. The restaurant was inspired by the food he ate and cooked growing up in Loei, a rural province in northeast Thailand, but he spent much of his adult years in Bangkok.

Saengsawang now runs five restaurants, including one in Portland, Oregon. He recently moved to Menlo Park so plans to be a frequent presence at this location.


A Farmhouse Kitche appetizer: sesame-crusted ahi tuna with cucumber, seaweed salad, lemongrass and spicy chili lime. Photo courtesy Farmhouse Kitchen.

Saengsawang describes his cooking style as “contemporary.” The Farmhouse Kitchen Menlo Park menu spans Northern and Southern Thailand, including dishes like pineapple fried rice, lobster pad thai, 24-hour beef noodle soup and slow-braised short rib served with panang curry, a dish the menu says is “reminiscent” of the large childhood meals Saengsawang would cook in Thailand for his family.


The “Little Lao table set,” a $120 chef’s choice meal set that includes numerous dishes and drinks, is available at the Menlo Park location. Photo courtesy Farmhouse Kitchen.

Desserts include mango sticky rice, Thai tea crepe cake and the very Instagrammable “Thai vacation,” a halved coconut filled with sticky rice, coconut ice cream, coconut cream, peanuts and sesame, garnished with a brightly colored drink umbrella.

The Menlo Park restaurant also serves cocktails, beer and wine.

Farmhouse Kitchen is open Monday-Thursday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5-9 p.m., Friday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5-10 p.m., Saturday noon to 10 p.m. and Sunday noon to 9 p.m.

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Newport Beach revokes temporary use permit for Peninsula Kitchen and Bar

A restaurant in Newport Beach had its emergency temporary use permit allowing for expansion of outdoor dining revoked this weekend, the only establishment to lose the permit since the implementation of the city’s Fast Track Back to Business Initiative in late May.

City officials said Wednesday the owners of the Peninsula Kitchen and Bar, also known as the Peninsula Lounge, were notified Sunday that the city would be revoking its permit, which allows businesses and religious institutions to temporarily expand into parking lots, sidewalks or other adjacent private or public property.

Officials said this is the restaurant’s second such revocation, the first being in July. Owners appealed the first revocation successfully and were able to continue operation after the hearing.

City spokesman John Pope said that city staff and code enforcement officers witnessed numerous violations of the temporary use permit’s conditions, which included the usage of indoor space for dancing and alcohol consumption; violation of occupancy limits for outdoor patio space; violations of the 9 p.m. closure times; and calls for police service as a result of outdoor alcohol consumption.

City staff also said that the restaurant made “no attempt to practice social distancing or require face coverings by patrons and staff.”

“The vast majority of restaurants and businesses are complying with the conditions of their emergency temporary use permits under the ‘Back to Business’ program and [state] guidelines,” Pope said. “However, the permits can be revoked if restaurant owners are found to be operating unsafely, in violation of the terms and conditions or guidelines.”

Restaurant owners declined to comment on Wednesday, but the Peninsula Lounge reports on OpenTable and Yelp that staff are required to wear face masks and temperatures are checked. It also states that surfaces are sanitized, seats are limited and tables are spaced in accordance with social-distancing requirements.

Reported operation hours vary across websites.

City staff said that though the permit was revoked, it only affects the restaurant’s outdoor dining but not the indoor dining due to Orange County moving this week to the “substantial” red tier from the “widespread” purple tier in the state’s new guidelines for reopening. As part of that, restaurants are allowed to resume indoor operations at capacities of either 25% or 100 people, whichever number is fewer, and close by 10 p.m.

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