Lom Wong owners to open bar, restaurant in downtown Phoenix, replacing Khla | Phoenix New Times

Food & Drink News

Lom Wong's owners are opening a new restaurant and bar. Here’s what to know

With their new concept, Alex and Yotaka “Sunny” Martin plan to continue sharing regional Thai flavors with Phoenix.
Mr. Baan's Bar and Mookata will highlight the Thai dish that owner Alex Martin describes as "a combination of shabu-shabu and Korean barbecue."
Mr. Baan's Bar and Mookata will highlight the Thai dish that owner Alex Martin describes as "a combination of shabu-shabu and Korean barbecue." Alex Martin
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The couple behind Lom Wong, the downtown Phoenix Thai restaurant that tells a story of the country’s northern regional cuisine, is opening a new restaurant and bar.

The new concept, called Mr. Baan’s Bar and Mookata, will open in the airy, backyard space behind Lom Wong, which formerly housed Khla. The Asian-inspired cocktail bar quietly closed earlier this month.

Mr. Baan’s is slated to open in November. The new spot will be a continuation of the work by owners Alex and Yotaka “Sunny” Martin to showcase the people and places of Thailand where they lived and worked.

That journey began first with the Lom Wong pop-up, then with the opening of the restaurant in 2022 in a bungalow on Portland Street. The duo's food has received rave reviews, including Phoenix New Times Best of Phoenix nods for Best Thai Restaurant this year and to Sunny, who was named Best Chef in 2022.
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The inspiration behind Mr. Baan's Bar and Mookata is owner Yotaka "Sunny" Martin's uncle, Baan Jinotun.
Alex Martin

Who is Mr. Baan?

The new concept takes inspiration from Sunny’s uncle, who Alex describes as “the life of the party.”

“When we got married – Mr. Baan doesn’t speak English, my family doesn’t speak Thai – but he became the unofficial tour guide for the family... eating, drinking, dancing,” Alex says. “We wanted to build a concept based off the positive energy as well as the fun and love of all things food and drink that Mr. Baan inhabits.”

Since the concept plans to celebrate Thai-style barbecue, the Bar and Mookata moniker is “kind of a play on words of the English concept of, like, bar and grill,” Alex says.
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Alex and Yotaka "Sunny" Martin plan to open a new restaurant and bar in the backyard behind Lom Wong.
Lom Wong

What’s on the menu?

With the food menu, the Martins plan to highlight two elements of Thai barbecue.

“Charcoal grilling is a huge part of Thai cooking,” Alex says.

The restaurant will feature rotating grilled skewers, such as curried corn on the cob or pork. The other dining option will be a reserved seating experience for mookata. Alex describes the dish as a domed charcoal grill surrounded by a pot where a moat of soup bubbles away, enriched by the meat drippings from the grill. It’s served alongside several dipping sauces.

“It originated in Chiang Mai," Alex says. “It is a combination of shabu-shabu and Korean barbecue."

Mookata is a meal and a cooking experience that is deeply personal to the Martins.

“I actually proposed to Sunny at a mookata restaurant,” Alex says. “We love it. It’s one of our favorite ways to celebrate with friends and family.”

The drinks menu will feature natural wine, similar to Lom Wong. In particular, Alex hopes to continue working to change minds about riesling.

“Riesling and Thai food is a match made in heaven,” he says. “It cuts through spice, it lifts up all the other flavors.”

The bar will also feature sake and the Japanese spirit shochu.
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The cocktail menu will infuse Thai flavors, including savory elements, mirroring the approach at sister restaurant Lom Wong. Pictured here is the Eleven Tigers, a smoky bourbon cocktail and Thunder's Piña Colada which has a savory fish sauce finish.
Natasha Yee

Cocktails to feature the flavors of Thailand

For Mr. Baan’s cocktail menu, the Martins leaned on Dustin Doan, a former bar manager at Khla. Alex describes the approach to the menu as “inspired by Thai and northern Thai flavors and drinking culture.” The cocktails will showcase ingredients of Thailand “that every person has in their cabinet but sometimes might not be talked about as much in American Thai restaurants,” he adds.

The Martins got to know Doan when he helped open and run Khla before relocating to Dallas at the end of 2022.

"There is no one on Earth we would rather work with," Alex says about developing the menu together.

Through research and working with the Martins, Doan has incorporated Thai flavors into drinks in new and unexpected ways.

“I wanted to create thoughtful drinks that were easy to enjoy but adventurous for some people,” Doan says.

One example is the Khao Soi Cowboy, which incorporates the flavors of Thai coconut curry soup into a piña colada. Deploying those savory elements in cocktails is something imbibers of Lom Wong’s drinks will recognize. Likewise, Mr. Baan's bloody mary is made with squid ink, fish sauce and Thai chiles.

The menu will also feature highballs and other familiar Thai flavors, like green papaya salad in a drink called the Som Tum Smash.

While it's “bittersweet” for Doan to see the end of Khla, which he helped open, “there are no better people to take over the space than those two,” he says of the Martins.

“I’m glad it’s one cohesive unit,” he says of the bungalow and backyard area that will now both be run by the same team.

The space itself will get a refreshed look, Alex says. The aim is to recreate the feel of the bungalows and outdoor kitchens that Sunny’s family has on their farms in Thailand.
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Lom Wong and its soon-to-open sister restaurant and bar, Mr. Baan's, will both highlight northern Thai cuisine in a cozy downtown bungalow on Portland Street.
Allison Young

Building a ‘little Thai enclave’

For the Martins, opening Mr. Baan’s provides another opportunity to share a different side of Thai cuisine.

“What we hope for Phoenix, and what we’re seeing starting to happen, is that there is this access to Thai food; there isn’t just one way to do it,” Alex says. “ At Lom Wong, we’ve always stood by the idea that we’re just trying to show a very small part of a very diverse cuisine that’s sincere to people and regions.”

And soon, they’ll be able to do that all under one roof.

“The way we look at it moreso is we’re trying to turn this building into a little Thai enclave,” Alex says.

Mr. Baan’s Bar and Mookata

Opening November
218 E. Portland St.

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