While traveling northern Thailand, the chef of a top-rated culinary school stepped in as a tour guide and introduced Jason Adelman to the region’s distinct flavors. It was a serendipitous encounter. They cooked together, and eventually, Jason and his brother, Matt, entered serious discussions about opening a restaurant in Oberlin with chef Aon Krittathiranon. He came to the U.S. in 2019, and ThìNì Thai began serving wait-lines of guests in January 2020.

Classically trained Chef Aon introduces fresh flavors, throwing a curveball at the Pad Thai type of fare most of us associate with the cuisine. You won’t find Americanized dishes on this menu. Flavors are infused with freshly mortared herbs and hard-to-find spices like Mah Kwan Wild Peppercorn sourced from the city of Chiag Mai.

In Thai, ThìNì means “here.”

“What we are telling you is, you are going to get authentic Thai food here,” Matt says, noting the rooster logo is a nod to how the Thai people associate it with attributes of prosperity and good luck. There’s the American cock-a-doodle-doo wakeup connotation, too. Chef Aon says, “We want you to wake up to the local flavors and real tastes.”

If you’re not sure what to order on the first visit, ask the chef for a recommendation and he will offer a sample. Expect to share family style with the table.

The popular Khao Soi is a dish that Matt says “is like a trip to northern Thailand without a passport.”

Khao Soi

Begin with a paste of lemongrass, galangal (ginger family, spicy), garlic, shallot, coriander seed, pickled mustard greens and imported Thai curry powder.

Add coconut milk, palm sugar and sea salt.

Pour atop soft-cooked egg noodles, garnished with crispy deep-fried noodles with a side of shallot, cilantro and lime.

Choose a protein — slow-cooked chicken, ribs, tofu or shrimp.