Light coconut milk is a common ingredient in Thai dishes.

It’s the main ingredient in Churi Struck’s popular Panang curry dish.

That’s how the new restaurant, opened by the former Irondequoit resident and restaurateur and her son, Mark Cantor, got its name.

“We wanted to make it easy — and catchy,” Cantor said.

Churi’s Coconut Tree quietly opened Thursday, Sept. 19, and Irondequoit fans of Churi’s authentic Thai cooking have been surprised and delighted ever since.

Churi formerly had an ice cream parlor, which transformed into a Thai kitchen, in Sea Breeze, about opposite the main entrance to Seabreeze amusement park, for a number of years. “Churi’s” closed two years ago, however.

Since then, Churi, a native of Thailand, and her husband, Richard, have relocated to the Penfield-Webster area, her son has settled in Hilton and her daughter, Sara, has married and moved to Oregon.

“But we missed our customers,” Churi said.

She said she and her son “looked all over the place” for a new restaurant location and even considered moving to Las Vegas, where she has another son, Larry, and grandson, but they decided they love Rochester — and Irondequoit in particular.

Cantor even has plans to move back to Irondequoit next month, to be closer to the business.

Churi's Coconut Tree is on E. Ridge Road, a couple of miles south of Churi’s previous location.

“We always got a lot of support from the Irondequoit community,” Cantor said, “but I don’t think everyone got to know us down in Sea Breeze. Hopefully, we’ll have more visibility here on the Ridge.”

Pat Schultz used to eat at Churi’s once or twice a week.

“It (even the new location) is kind of hidden (it does sit back from the road),” Schultz said. “But once you find it ... It (the food) is just excellent.”

In just the couple of weeks the restaurant has been open, “it has been like welcoming back family and friends,” Cantor said. “People are shocked (and pleased) we’re back ... We’ve been getting more than just handshakes, and ‘hello,’ too; we’ve been getting hugs and kisses!”

To get ready for the opening, mother and son, with help from their friends and even former customers, remodeled the building inside and out.

It has a new, fresh look on the outside and inside, artist Lorraine Staunch has painted a “coconut tree” mural as well as complementing paintings for the walls.

The new business has brought mother and son back together, too.

“I suddenly realized I wasn’t seeing my mother as much,” Cantor said, “and I wasn’t eating her Thai food anymore.”

He says he couldn’t be happier that they’re side-by-side again.

The Coconut Tree’s menu has Sea Breeze favorites like coconut soup, spring rolls, pad Thai, chicken basil and pineapple fried rice in addition new items that are sure to become favorites. Cantor said he expected to have his new menu by this week. They plan to offer specials on Fridays and Saturdays.

They still cook each dish — Churi does most of the cooking, with some help — fresh to order.

Churi uses recipes she learned by visiting the kitchen in her family’s home in Thailand.

“Everybody likes seeing her (Churi),” Cantor said.

“Everyone’s been walking into the kitchen,” she said with a laugh.

The restaurant doesn’t yet have its liquor license, but expects to have it within a month or two.

Her son has already noticed the difference.

“I’m eating healthier now,” he said. “I’d venture that we’re one of the healthiest-food restaurants in Rochester. The food just makes you feel good.”