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The Kitchen Connection

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Written by Lauren Hunsberger

Photography by Inese Westcott

Bellevue Club member and restaurateur Cindy Gayte carries on her mother’s foodie traditions with a new West Bellevue location.

When Lisa Ruhl, Cindy Gayte’s mother, opened Bellevue Thai Kitchen in 1981, she did so with the purpose of bringing a new kind of cuisine to the Pacific Northwest. “My mom took a lot of pride in educating people about her heritage and food," says Gayte.

“I have the original menus, and there were Thai and Chinese dishes on them because people didn’t know what Thai food was then. She needed to get them in the door."Ruhl passed down her passion for cooking, and Gayte made it her mission to keep her mother’s vision for fresh, authentic Thai food alive. This spring she branched out and opened Thai Kitchen Bird Pepper, located in Bellevue Square on the second floor between Nordstrom and Crate and Barrel (the old Pagliacci Pizza space).

Her vision has been a staple of the Eastside restaurant scene ever since, and the business became a family affair. The long heritage of restaurants also includes Gayte's brother, Tom Suanpirintra, who is the creative mind behind Thai Tom in the U-District in Seattle, boasting a cult-like following.

“I wanted to do something a little different for my own legacy. I’ve scaled down the Thai Kitchen menu (the current one has about 75 dishes) to our customers’ favorites and injected a few things I just love into it. I I added happy hour with beer, wine and cocktails in a welcoming, modern space,”
Gayte says.

In her new endeavor, Gayte says she is taking the ‘less is more’ approach with a menu featuring a curated collection of Thai Kitchen favorites and a rotation of seasonal dishes, refined with heat and flavor. There is also a full bar with craft cocktails.    

Gayte says her goal is for Thai Kitchen Bird Pepper to be a place for friends and families to come together. “We want this to be a comfortable, convenient landing spot for our friends and neighbors, as it’s so close to our home," she says. Cindy’s husband, Chris, grew up on Clyde Hill and is no stranger to the restaurant business. His father, Phillipe Gayte, owned Bistro Provencal in downtown Kirkland.

With the legacy of Bellevue Thai Kitchen and the vision that Ruhl instilled into her, Gayte is ready to take on the emergent Bellevue food scene. “I can’t wait to bring this opening of The Thai Kitchen Bird Pepper to Bellevue."

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