About the Restaurant
Malisa Monyakula’s fast-casual restaurant opened to rave reviews in August 1997, in Lawrence, KS. She decided to take her show on the road and in 2000 opened a new location on Kansas City’s Southwest Boulevard to an adoring and noodle-hungry crowd. The Lawrence location is no longer open. After operating at 333 Southwest Boulevard for 10 years, Monyakula moved and opened in our present location at 2030 Central in January 2011. Monyakula re-branded the restaurant and revamped the menu. The KC outpost is going strong with a comfy urban feel; a menu that includes fiery curries, noodles, satays and rice dishes, including a crowd pleasing Pad Thai, Drunken Noodles and Rainbow Peanut Noodles; and Monyakula directing traffic.
Savvy Crossroads Arts District dwellers and business executives reluctant to make the trek back to suburbia, wander to Lulu’s for an amazing Happy Hour everyday between 2pm - 6pm. Lulu’s pays attention to thirst-quenchers with house made infusions, delicious Thai inspired martinis, a Thai Island Iced Tea, and other drinks that almost trump the good eats.
It’s no accident that Monyakula’s food is certifiably authentic: Her Thai and Swiss father blessed his daughter with some formidable food chops early on. “The reason I opened this restaurant is because my fondest childhood memory was my dad preparing meals for friends and family,” Monyakula says. “In Thailand you’re always talking about the next meal.” Lucky for us!
The two questions I get asked most often are: what made you decide to open a restaurant and why Thai?
Born in Bangkok to a Thai father and an American mother, from an early age I learned to appreciate all things Thai, especially the flavors of the Thai cuisine.
At a young age, my parents decided to move our family to the States. Having spent the first years of my life in a tropical climate, I balked, and yes threw a tantrum at having to wear a coat during a brief stay in Hong Kong along our journey to the US.
My family settled in Kansas. But why all these years later open a restaurant? Again, it goes back to my childhood. In the basement of my house we had a ping pong table. Rather than having tea parties, like most young girls, I used to play restaurant serving meals to my guests. I am not sure what caused this interest in a restaurant. No one in my family was in the restaurant business. After twenty-two years as a restaurant operator, I suppose being a restaurateur was my destiny. It certainly is my passion.
Perhaps my interest in serving and preparing food began in childhood. As a young girl, I watched my dad prepare amazing Thai meals for family and friends. My father always included me in the preparation whether I was shelling peanuts or cleaning bean sprouts, he always took joy in teaching me to cook.
My dad, Prateeb, was born and raised in Thailand. My great grandfather, Bernard Emil Mohn, was a Swiss jeweler living in St Gallen, Switzerland. In the early 1900’s, he traveled to Thailand in search of precious gems. While in Thailand, he met and fell in love with Choi, a native Thai woman. They soon married and bore three sons. Mon (Willie) was my grandfather. His title was granted by Rama V and Rama VI.
On April 17, 1914, King Rama VI issued a Royal Proclamation that all Thais would have a surname. So, began the Monyakula family.
My father was the ninth child of this newly formed Monyakula family. He attended the Chulalongkorn University and received his undergraduate degree. After graduation, he worked for the Thai government. In 1956, the government sent my dad to the University of Colorado at Boulder to obtain his Masters in Civil Engineering. Luckily for him, there was a population of Thais at the school. All of them were homesick having moved from a tropical country to the mountains of Colorado. The pungent smells of spices, the creaminess of coconut milk curries and the fragrant smell of jasmine rice which is so prevalent in Thailand were smells they longed for. Garlic, lemongrass, chilis were all unheard of in the US kitchens of the 1950’s.
Somehow my dad became the unofficial Chef for his friends. He began by preparing his favorite dishes. The recipes were of course his mothers, Kaimuk, Khun Ya. Each time he returned to Thailand for school holidays, he would ask Khun Ya for more recipes. He would watch her cook asking questions and observing her techniques. Back at school, he would reproduce this mothers delicate recipes for his friends. Perhaps it was his culinary prowess that attracted my mother, Phyllis. Or more likely it was his exotic good looks. In any event, they fell in love, married and returned to Thailand. Soon after, I was born at a hospital on Silom Road in Bangkok.
Fast forward to the States in the early 1970’s, Chinese restaurants were still somewhat of a novelty. Steak and potatoes, meatloaf and iceberg wedge salads were the norm. My Dad soon began searching out the Asian markets for spices, coconuts and rice. He was soon cooking his way into the hearts of his friends and colleagues.
Some of my fondest childhood memories are of my dad cooking amazing Thai food for friends. They would oohh and ahhh over each dish, they were simply amazed by my father’s prowess as a chef and enthralled with this exotic Thai cusine. I would always be in the kitchen “helping’ my dad. He would sometimes place live crabs on the floor and I would squeal as they crawled around the kitchen, only too soon to be the main course.
These memories are so powerful , I guess it’s no wonder I became a restaurant operator. It truly has been a dream come true and a passion too great to ignore. So please feel welcomed into my kitchen and let Lulu’s create some wonderful memories for you…