Why open a restaurant during a pandemic? It was actually the perfect opportunity, says Thanawat Khamchum (T), co-owner of Yaksha South East Asian Eatery. The exodus of restaurants from midtown helped T and his wife, Sue, secure their new space at 2109 Yonge Street, as many landlords reduced prices to try and attract new tenants. The couple previously owned a location of a popular Asian chain restaurant but lack of foot traffic amid the pandemic forced them to close up shop.
“We do have fun and we don’t want to give up,” says T. “We looked around [for] a better place that is suited to the situation . . . we just [wanted to] downsize, down really tight and try to stay alive.”
T and Fue had a clear vision: “People are used to the taste of Asia: this is a Thai taste, this is a Vietnamese taste, this is a Malaysian taste. However, there is no restaurant in Toronto that has mixed all of these into a workable concept,” says T.
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The couple has drawn on ingredients, flavours and techniques from some of Southeast Asia’s most popular dishes, distilled them down to the basics and re-assembled them into flavourful but healthy rice bowls. Diners can choose from pre-made bowls like Saigon Supreme (lemongrass chicken, Asian slaw, fresh veggies and tamarind sauce) and Malay Satay (peanut satay chicken, Asian slaw, fresh veggies and peanut satay sauce), or create their own customized bowl.
What makes Yaksha different, T says, is their focus on healthy and convenient eating. Rather than heaping your plate with rice and noodles, Yaksha’s bowls are compact and provide alternative bases like romaine lettuce so you can easily turn a bowl into a hearty salad. Rice is only a part of the bowl, never the main ingredient.
Although takeout is the focus at Yaksha, T and Fue have plans to set up a small counter where customers can stand and eat outside once restrictions are lifted. Yaksha is now available for takeout or delivery through Ritual, UberEats, DoorDash and SkipTheDishes.