What’s in a name? Everything, as the family behind the well-loved Thai restaurant, Som’s Noodle House, is finding out after having entered into a partnership which they thought will keep their business afloat and, more importantly, keep the reputation they worked hard for intact.
A recent FB post by Som Pattamadilok, the youngest daughter of Som’s owners Parinya and Eva Pattamadilok, surprised many when she clarified that they are “not in any way connected” with Som’s Authentic Thai Cuisine Little Bangkok since May 2019. “We are getting complaints about our food quality, specifically those who ordered from Grab Food. This saddens me because I know how hard my parents worked for our restaurant. … Please do not associate us with ‘Little Bangkok,” pleaded Som who, of course, inspired their restaurant’s name.
A partnership turned sour
The past four years have especially been difficult for the Pattamadiloks because of mounting financial responsibilities. Since 2016, they have transferred sites twice, leaving their original location on Algiers St. in Poblacion, Makati, an address that most of their loyal customers know. Their father’s medical expenses, higher rent, school tuition plus everyday expenses have made the recent years such a hurdle for the family. It even came to a point that they couldn’t pay their electric bills.
Desperate, the Pattamadiloks entered into a partnership last February 2019 with a couple who were regular customers of Som’s. “Nuon pa man marami nang may gustong bumili ng pangalan ng Som’s at gustong makipag partner pero ayaw pumayag ni Papa,” Som, speaking for her father, tells ANC-X in a video call with her sister Patty. Their father sat nearby and tried to participate. Since a stroke in 2005, Parinya has found it more difficult to speak English and Tagalog, a language he used to be fluent in, says Som. He has also been wheelchair-bound since they had his leg amputated seven years ago due to diabetes.
The couple who offered the partnership were very convincing and treated them like family, narrates Som. Around this time, the Pattamadiloks had just moved into a new apartment for the third time and have not been able to afford to open their restaurant. Says Som: “Sabi nila, sila magahahanap ng pwesto and mag fi-finance basta kami na ang bahala sa kitchen--sa recipe, ingredients, at pagluluto.” Moreover, according to Som, the couple promised them allowances and a 50 percent share in earnings—and they would find the Pattamadiloks a bigger apartment where they would all fit and pay for that as well.
True to their word, their ‘business partner’ opened a restaurant on Albert St. in Poblacion, carrying the name Som’s Authentic Thai Cuisine "Little Bangkok”. Eva, Eva’s sister in law, and the Pattamadilok children Ryan and Patty all helped run the kitchen. According to Som, promises were kept the first few months but eventually the relationship turned sour after the Pattamadiloks were ‘let go’ retaining only Eva’s sister-in-law. The partner reasoned their overhead was getting too expensive, says Som.
Eventually, the couple stopped communicating with Eva altogether until she decided to cut ties in May 2019. The only problem is that their ‘ex-business partner’ still has “Som’s” attached to the name of their restaurant. According to Patty, making matters complicated is the fact that the name Som’s Authentic Thai Cuisine "Little Bangkok" is registered under the Securities and Exchange Commission with her and her other two siblings as signatories together with their business partners.
From Phuket to the Philippines
With Parinya, the patriarch, sickly, his children are trying their best to shield him from the drama. After all, the patriarch together with their mom, has already done so much: teaching them everything they know, making Thai cuisine accessible to ordinary Filipinos, and making Som’s a brand name in the process.
Parinya, originally from Phuket, learned to cook from his parents who were in-house cooks for no less than Thailand’s royal family. “Because his parents stayed in the palace, my father grew up without them by his side so he learned how to be independent at a very young age. Despite this, he is happy and proud that he learned how to cook from his father and mother,” shares Som.
When his father died, Parinya’s mother and aunt came to the Philippines and worked as chefs in upscale Thai restaurants Sukothai and Baan Thai. He followed in 1988 and eventually landed a job as a cook in Sukothai in Megamall. It was around this time when he met his wife Eva who worked in Baan Thai. When he married Eva, Parinya decided to settle in the Philippines for good.
From kariton to aircon
Sukothai closed around the year 2000 and to support the family, the Pattamadiloks decided to put up a rolling store selling Thai noodle soup. It became a hit especially among foreigners who loved its authentic taste so much so that they requested the couple to introduce more Thai dishes. Parinya did so and eventually their kariton was replaced with chairs and tables that were set-up in front of their apartment on Algiers St. so customers can dine in.
From this humble start-up was born Som’s Noodle House which patrons simply referred to as “Som’s”. From hole-in-the-wall, it went on to become a popular airconditioned destination restaurant, even having branches in Reposo, Mandaluyong, and Quezon City at one point.
Throughout the 2000s and into the 2010s, Som’s Noodle House saw a steady stream of customers who went out of their way to find this place ‘sa likod ng Rockwell’—just to have their fill of Thai favorites such as Tom Yum, Red and Green Curry, Bagoong Rice, Chicken Pandan, Pad Thai, and Thai iced tea. At that time, there were hardly any other Thai restaurants that offered what Som’s could. It was cheap, got the Thai flavors right, and served a wide range of dishes in generous proportions. While all these contributed to its popularity, it was really the promise of a home-cooked Thai meal—the kind that transports you to the streets of Bangkok—that sealed the deal for many.
Word-of-mouth also made Som’s popular among many celebrities. “Si Angelica Panganiban lagi talaga siya sa amin. Lahat yata ng naging boyfriend niya nadala niya na sa Som’s—from Derek Ramsey to John Lloyd Cruz,” recalls Som. Vicky Belo, Richard Gomez, Gretchen Baretto, Anabelle Rama, KC Concepcion, Alex Gonzaga, and Enchong Dy also frequented the place, she adds.
Cooking from memory
Parinya personally taught his children how to cook his way. “My dad is really cool and funny and, before, my siblings and I liked being around him more because Mama often scolded us. But, when it comes to cooking, he is scary. He is very strict and would shout if you got it wrong. Also, my brother and sister were not allowed to write down the steps for the dishes. He wants them to memorize it,” says Som, who does not cook but helps manage their Facebook page.
Mr Pattamadilok was a stickler for cooking step by step, Som adds. “Ang laging sabi ni Papa dapat huwag biglain. Huwag magmadali at dapat laging masaya pag nagluluto.”
Their restaurant created many good memories for their customers, and Som’s recent Facebook post further triggered nostalgia for their most loyal ones. One patron commented “I lab Som’s. Naabutan kong 50 (pesos) yung Thai tea #1 fan.” Another posted, “I miss your food lalo na yung Pad Thai and Thai milk tea. The last time I ordered was in 2018 and I had to literally walk from Taguig to Makati to buy food for Mother's Day.” Another follower commented, “Ibang klase ang lasa ng mga Thai food dito talaga. Original. Lahat alam mong may kalidad at walang ginayahan kanino man.”
Getting their name back
At this point the Pattamadiloks, though regretful, have come to terms with what happened to the failed business partnership. “We were blindsided and were too naive to trust them without a contract,” says Som.
The family’s only plea right now is for their “ex-business partner” to drop the Som’s name from their restaurant so as not to confuse the public with the original “Som’s Noodle House.” Currently, the Pattamadiloks don’t have a restaurant but they continue to serve through take out from their apartment at 5755 San Marcos St. in Poblacion. They also hope to have their name registered in Grab but don’t know where to start as the other ‘Som’s’ is also registered in the App.
Patty, who manages the family’s take-out business, is hopeful that when they are able to save enough and the COVID-19 woes have eased, they could open the restaurant once more. But for now, she says teary-eyed, all they want is to get the Som’s name back for their parents, especially for their ailing father who has left a lasting legacy of making many Filipinos appreciate Thai food.
“Gusto namin maging okay yung buhay namin para sa magulang na rin namin na naghirap na palaguin yung Som’s. Gusto rin namin malaman ng parents namin na nabawi na namin yung nawalang (pangalan ng Som’s). Yun lang yung binigay nilang kayamanan sa amin na gusto naming i-treasure,” she says.
ANC-X tried to reach out and get the side of the owners of Som’s Authentic Thai Cuisine “Little Bangkok” through a delivery number posted on their FB account. The lady who answered but did not give her name said that if we wished to tell the story of Som’s and the Pattamadiloks we can go ahead but they will not entertain an interview. ANC-X remains open should owners of Som’s Authentic Thai Cuisine “Little Bangkok” wish to tell their side of the story.
Som’s Noodle House is on Facebook. 5755 San Marcos St. Poblacion, Makati. Contact numbers: 09561463669, 09062815620.