At Baan Lao, Thai Cuisine Triumphs in a Village Near Vancouver


Baan Lao creates extravagant-looking plates lush with colour, like this serving of mango and sticky rice. (Guillermo Serrano photo for

Before heading up her own kitchen as the chef and owner of Baan Lao, one of Canada’s most elegant restaurants, Nutcha Phanthoupheng managed a team of 40 people as a nurse and cancer researcher. 

The experience in science and healthcare shaped Phanthoupheng’s beliefs and focus on how she serves and presents food to her family and customers. At Baan Lao, which overlooks the south arm of the Fraser River in the heart of Steveston, a historical fishing village, food and its sourcing is at the heart of health and wellness. 

“In the hospital, you have to have peace and calm. There are people around you, the other nurses, the doctors, the patients, their families, and they’re reacting to the people around them. If you stay focused and you stay at peace all the time, the people around you react to that and they feel at peace. I want that in the kitchen and for the customers,” Phanthoupheng said. 


Sumas Mountain Farms grilled organic beef tenderloin with Thai chili is one of the Baan Lao dishes that shows its attention to creativity and fine ingredients. (Guillermo Serrano photo for

At Baan Lao, Phanthoupheng is careful about the attention lavished on the dishes she prepares. It starts with pure, fresh, organic ingredients. The “About Us” section on the Baan Lao website lists 15 local purveyors, almost all of them in the Metro Vancouver area, including Barnston Herb in Surrey and Sumas Mountain Farms in Abbotsford. The restaurant’s only source of ingredients outside of the region is an organic rice farm in Khon Kaen, Thailand. It is Phanthoupheng’s family farm where her ancestors have been growing rice for generations. 

Co-owner John Phanthoupheng, her husband, grew up in the Comox Valley where another supplier, McClintock’s Farm, is located. 

John Phanthoupheng, who is the honorary consul for the government of Laos, said at the core of the restaurant is the desire to create a genuine experience for diners. 

“We wanted to give people a real authentic Thai experience. We’re not here to modify or make it fusion. It’s about a beautiful presentation celebrating the best ingredients you can get,” he pointed out. 

Nutcha Phanthoupheng baan lao chef

Chef and co-owner Nutcha Phanthoupheng applies her knowledge of healthcare in the recipes she builds at Baan Lao. (Photo courtesy of Baan Lao)

The restaurant’s look, both inside and out, was designed to be luscious and green with plants. It’s modern with a clean aesthetic, representing the couple’s vision and their desire to make customers feel like they are a treasured guest. 

“Thai hospitality is very sincere, very genuine. We want it to show in the food that’s prepared and in how your eyes are taking in everything around you,” John Phanthoupheng said. 

The couple met in Bangkok and when the family decided to shift into cooking, Nutcha Phanthoupheng began her training to be a chef with private lessons from some of Thailand’s most well-regarded talents, including “Iron Chef of Thailand” Chumpol Jangprai, the first two-Michelin-star Thai chef in the world, and Vichit Mukura, a one Michelin-star chef who served the Thai royal family.

Authentic Thai cuisine, such as this pad Thai topped with tofu, is what graces your plate when you dine at Baan Lao, located in a small village outside of Vancouver. (Guillermo Serrano photo for

Baan Lao’s culinary leader was raised in the countryside region of Isaan, known for its sticky rice, which is both the main agricultural crop of the area and its staple food. She learned to grow rice, vegetables, and fruit, and raise buffalo, pigs, and chicken. Living on a farm, she fished and also foraged for everything from wild honey to insects and lizards. Her family cooked together each night using the organic ingredients she collected. 

Eating only what the family grew or collected left a lasting impression. After she became a registered nurse, Phanthoupheng recognized the impact of contaminated food and improper food storage for those without access to refrigeration. There is no deep freezer in the restaurant and only a tiny fridge. In her time as a nurse, she learned about the rising health risks from the over-consumption of preservatives and pesticides. Baan Lao focuses on certified organic, sustainable, and wild ingredients, making sure there is no food that has touched pesticides or insecticides. Even pad Thai noodles and spring-roll pastry are freshly made from organic rice originating from the family fields in Khon Kaen. 


The ingredients of the Pacific Northwest are given a Thai touch at Baan Lao, including in this pomelo salad. (Guillermo Serrano photo for

Her commitment to learning about the impact of food on human health inspired Phanthoupheng to obtain her MBA and become a cancer researcher at the prestigious Princess Chulaborn Hospital in Bangkok. That training and her background gave Baan Lao its purpose. The restaurant was opened in 2021. In just a few years, its reputation has grown. A year after its debut, Baan Lao was nationally recognized as one of the leading restaurants in Canada. The menu changes seasonally with flavourful dishes fusing local with international cuisine, such as coconut galangal soup with wild sockeye salmon and Sumas Mountain grilled organic beef tenderloin in red curry. 

“I hope diners can first of all feel like they’ve come to a charming and quiet home. That’s why we chose this location,” she said. “We wanted everyone to feel like they’re welcome and are home when they’re here.”


Location: 4100 Bayview Street, Richmond, BC (see map below)
Reservations: Visit the Contact page of the restaurant’s website to secure your booking.
Menu Price Range: Baan Lao features multi-course tasting menus only, with prices ranging from $175 to $290 per person. Wine, cocktail, or tea pairings are also available for additional costs.


Being a waterfront community, Steveston has several restaurants along its boardwalk pier. Here are four more to check out:

Blue Canoe: One of the more satisfying options along the water is Blue Canoe. It has decadent seafood platters, fresh oysters, and quality fish and chips. The wine list is filled with selections from British Columbia, underscoring the restaurant’s local and regional focus.

GoodCo.: With five locations in Greater Vancouver, GoodCo. is a success story that started in the Vancouver neighbourhood of Kitsilano in 2012. Steveston is the chain’s southernmost location and is in a large, airy space steps from the water. Try the fish tacos, made with Pacific cod.

Steveston Seafood House: A long-time local’s favourite, the Steveston Seafood House still serves buck-a-shuck oysters in its charming restaurant with white-linen tables and old-school charms. The dishes are contemporary, though, including the miso-marinated sablefish. The restaurant was closed in January because of a fire in a neighbouring building but is expected to re-open in April or May.

Steveston Pizza: Ever had an $850 pizza? You can here. Steveston Pizza’s C6 pie features Osteria caviar, lobster ratatouille, smoked steelhead, tiger prawns, and a dusting of white truffle. Read more about it in this article.