February 21, 2024


World's finest Food

Taproot in Bethel serves up ‘shiok’ burgers and Southeast Asian specialties

Jeff Taibe’s deep love for Southeast Asian cuisine has been unwavering for more than two decades, stemming from his time living and cooking abroad in Singapore and Thailand.

When Taibe and Steph Sweeney originally opened Taproot in Bethel in 2017, they initially focused on farm-to-table, chef-driven new American cuisine. But Taibe’s mind was still on the flavors he loved best — coconut, lemongrass, chilis, star anise — and he kept discussing the possibility of introducing new dishes with Sweeney, even well before COVID-19 disrupted the entire industry.

“It wasn’t the pandemic that caused the change; Steph and I had been talking about it for two years or so,” he said. “It was the not knowing what the end would be…every day there’s a new barrier. It was me kind of wanting to finally change it up, and yes, it is takeout-friendly. It’s fun and interesting.”

“A lot of restaurants are doing that new-American style,” Sweeney said. “It was more just to kind of branch out from the norm and do a little something different.”

In February, Taibe and Sweeney closed Taproot temporarily and relaunched with a fresh menu, featuring the flavors of Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia.

“A lot of it was nostalgic for me…things that I fell in love with when I was there,” Taibe said of his menu construction. Dishes like lobster mee goreng, with spicy fried noodles, egg and bean sprouts, and lamb murtabak (a stuffed Indian-style flatbread) evoked memories of his time in Singapore. Others, like a fried tofu banh mi sandwich and chicken satay, are more universally recognized.

Taproot offers bites and small plates ($9 to $14) with best-sellers like hot oil pork dumplings and smoked mushroom spring rolls. Vietnamese chicken wings are prepared with fish sauce caramel, and laab nua dib features beef tartare with fish sauce, lime dressing, shallots, aromatic herbs and ground rice. Miang kum is served with crispy pig’s ear, lettuce wraps and a coconut-tamarind sauce.

Veggies and sides ($4 to $14) include Indonesian gado-gado with charred cabbage and fried tofu; som tum nong moo (mortar and pestle mixed green papaya salad with dried shrimp, pork rinds, chilis, garlic, long beans and peanuts) and choy sum belacan, Chinese flowering broccoli cooked with housemade chili sambal.

Taproot’s “shiok” burger is both a nod to the popularity of fast food in Singapore and a relic of the original Taproot menu, Taibe said, available in single or double patties ($12 to $16) with sesame bun, beef patty, American cheese, special sauce, onion and lettuce.