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Virginia Restaurateur Overhauls Former Arunee Thai Space With Chic Decor

By Katie Honan | July 14, 2014 2:50pm
 The new Kitchen 79 opened up in the former Arunee Thai space with a full makeover.
Modern Decor Revamps Familiar Thai Restaurant Location in Jackson Heights
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JACKSON HEIGHTS — Rudee Ritichailerk has owned a successful Japanese restaurant in Virginia for the past seven years.

But when she was approached about helping to revamp a space that once housed the popular Arunee Thai eatery in Jackson Heights, she decided to "take a chance," leaving her home behind three months ago and moving hundreds of miles.

"It's challenging to do something in New York," Ritichailerk, 41, said. "I wanted to take a chance. I wanted to give it a try for myself."

She and her business partner, Thawatchai Thadchan, opened Kitchen 79 in the former Arunee Thai space on 79th Street in June, revamping it with modern black and white decor.

She got to know Thadchan, 34, through her sister and, when he approached her about teaming up for a restaurant in Queens, she couldn't say no.

She still owns a Japanese restaurant she opened seven years ago in Richmond, Va., and plans to travel there once a month to check up on it, she said.

But for now the focus is on Kitchen 79, which features familiar Thai menu items. It also has a lunch menu with several options that starts at $7.50 and includes a choice of appetizers.

Black and white tables with matching chairs give the restaurant a modern look and the centerpiece is a piece of artwork that contains action figures and other items that are spray-painted black.

They are awaiting a liquor license to open the bar, which will feature a rotating roster of tap beers including Long Trail, Kuka and 16 Mile Post Apocalyptic porter, Ritichailerk said.

The owner said she wanted to have the restaurant stand out from so many nearby Thai restaurants and also offer another option for residents to grab some food and drinks. 

"You've got people everywhere, I don't have to compete with them," she said when asked if she feels pressure being down the street from the current Arunee Thai location.

"It's the customers' choice. I just want to do what's best for the customers."