Thursday, July 20, 2017

MK's Asian Persuasion Offers Food Inspired by Laos in Southampton

Posted By on Thu, Jul 20, 2017 at 6:28 AM

click to enlarge MK's Asian Persuasion brings southeast Asian cuisine to Southampton. - CHERYL BAEHR
  • Cheryl Baehr
  • MK's Asian Persuasion brings southeast Asian cuisine to Southampton.

MK Vongnarath began cooking when he was just six years old and living in Laos. Every morning, he and his mother would get up at 6 a.m. to prepare food for the Buddhist monks who lived at the nearby monastery. They'd serve them breakfast, and then turn around and prepare them lunch a few hours later. "It wasn't a business," Vongnarath explains. "It was a donation — an offering."

Now, Vongnarath's days start later, but not all that much. After running the successful food truck MK's Rolls and Wraps, the chef decided it was time for a brick and mortar. He opened his first restaurant, MK's Asian Persuasion (6417 Hampton Avenue), in Southampton at the end of last month.

Vongarath emigrated to St. Louis from Laos, by way of Thailand, in 1981 when he was thirteen. After graduating high school, he got a job as a freight driver, but he could not shake the feeling that he wanted to get into professional cooking. He began his food truck in 2015, but quickly realized that he wanted a more traditional storefront. When the space on Hampton came available, he jumped on it and got to work converting the restaurant into the Asian fusion restaurant of his dreams.

Maya Vongnarath, Vongarath's daughter, also works at the restaurant with her sister, Lisa. She makes plain that this is not a traditional Laotian or Thai restaurant. "We can do that, but everyone has their own tastes, so we wanted to do fusion," she explains. She points to one of the restaurant's signature dishes, the spicy steak, as evidence of their non-traditional approach to cooking traditional dishes. "We cook the steak here, but traditionally the meat is served raw," she notes. "But my dad can do things traditionally, too, if someone wants that."

click to enlarge MK Vongnarath, owner of MK's Asian Persuasion. - CHERYL BAEHR
  • Cheryl Baehr
  • MK Vongnarath, owner of MK's Asian Persuasion.

In addition to the spicy steak, look for dishes like make-your-own pad thai, with a variety of different protein types and toppings. The same Thai noodle staple can be stuffed into a wrap for a grab-and-go option.

MK's Asian Persuasion also serves appetizers, including spring rolls and egg rolls, as well as beef, vegetarian or seafood pho, and gang phet creamy coconut curry with choice of protein and potatoes.

MK is open Tuesday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. until midnight. On those weekend nights, the restaurant sections off a corner of the dining room for karaoke, though Vongnarath insists it's his cooking that makes the restaurant stand apart from the rest — a skill he picked up at the urging of his mother.

"My mom always said that if you can cook, you will never go hungry," he smiles. Now, his Southampton neighbors will have no reason to go hungry either.

Click through for more photos of MK's Asian Persuasion.

click to enlarge MAYA VONGNARATH AND LISA BOBO, DAUGHTERS OF MK.
  • Maya Vongnarath and Lisa Bobo, daughters of MK.

click to enlarge Owner MK Vongnarath hard at work in his small kitchen. - CHERYL BAEHR
  • Cheryl Baehr
  • Owner MK Vongnarath hard at work in his small kitchen.
click to enlarge The spicy steak, a twist on a Laotian delicacy. - CHERYL BAEHR
  • Cheryl Baehr
  • The spicy steak, a twist on a Laotian delicacy.
click to enlarge MK's Asian Persuasion has a large bar and seating area. - CHERYL BAEHR
  • Cheryl Baehr
  • MK's Asian Persuasion has a large bar and seating area.
click to enlarge The large Southampton storefront has ample seating. - CHERYL BAEHR
  • Cheryl Baehr
  • The large Southampton storefront has ample seating.

click to enlarge The restaurant has a covered outdoor seating area. - CHERYL BAEHR
  • Cheryl Baehr
  • The restaurant has a covered outdoor seating area.
We are always hungry for tips and feedback. Email the author at cheryl.baehr@riverfronttimes.com.

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