A new underground restaurant had its soft opening Monday, an accomplishment six years in the making.

Thai Fresh Gardens and Sushi, located in the Market Place Underground, is celebrating its opening quietly to make sure everything is in place and ready to go for a more official opening later this month, said Dave Messinger, representative and overseer of the operations for the restaurant.

“The whole team is ready now,” Messinger said last week.

The restaurant has five full-time employees, plus one part-timer who have gone through training in the Pendleton location.

“We offer authentic Thai cuisine,” Messinger said. “I frequent Thai restaurants all over — I know the difference between a good, authentic restaurant and one that’s not.”

This new restaurant is pulling out all the stops, he said.

“The ingredients used and the way it’s prepared here — there’s a reason why ‘fresh’ is in the name,” he said.

Messinger said he was raised in Thailand and knows how the food is supposed to taste. The fact that this restaurant is offering a full Thai restaurant is “really special and exciting,” he said.

“You can’t go to Portland or Seattle and find something like this,” he said.

Eddie Adisorn, the head chef, and owner, Dara Sitthideth, are the main attraction to the restaurant and the ones who are going to put La Grande on the map, Messinger said.

The restaurant is similar to the Pendleton location, he said. However, the menu will adapt to the community, and menu items will reflect customers’ preferences.

Thai Fresh Gardens will offer lunch and dinner items.

Customers can come in for a “quick lunch,” he said, for those who need to pick up something fast and get back to work or school.

This quick lunch is different than what has been offered at the Pendleton restaurant, Messinger said. Because of the La Grande restaurant’s location, it opens up the possibility for serving food fast. There will also be appetizer-type items offered for those who want to pick up something to snack on while they’re browsing the other stores in the underground mall, he said.

There is also the option of a sit-down dining experience, though. The restaurant will close at 3 p.m. to get ready for the traditional dinner menu.

There are plans to serve alcohol, too. Messinger said they plan to add drinks — such as sake and wine — to the menu eventually.

Messinger said with this new restaurant, customers should try something different off the menu every time they come in.

“Open your mind and mouth to Southeast Asian food,” he said. “For those afraid of the food being too spicy, everything is adjustable on the menu. Don’t be afraid to request a special food preparation. It’s individually cooked and you can add and subtract things.”

The plan is for Thai Fresh Gardens to be open seven days a week. Lunch will begin at 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Then it will be closed until 4:30 p.m. when dinner will begin.

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