ZAGAT - FIRST LOOK AT CHAI YO
FIRST LOOK: CHAI YO'S ELEGANT THAI IN BUCKHEAD
THE NIYOMKUL FAMILY LAUNCHES ANOTHER UPSCALE KNOCKOUT
February 11, 2018·by Christopher Hassiotis
The gist: All too frequently, neighborhood Thai restaurants risk becoming generic, offering lengthy menus intended to be all things to all diners. But the Niyomkul family has fought that trend, imbuing its establishments — Nan Thai Fine Dining, Tuk Tuk Thai Food Loft and the temporarily closed Tamarind Seed Thai Bistro — with a strong personality, design aesthetic and focused cooking. The newest entry to the group is Chai Yo, which sees chef DeeDee Niyomkul of Tuk Tuk take the helm for her second restaurant, presenting sophisticated Thai fare in a modern Buckhead setting.
The food: Chef Niyomkul collaborated with her mother Nan, the namesake of the family’s Midtown restaurant, on Chai Yo’s menu, drawing from traditional Thai cooking, but updating the dishes with local ingredients and contemporary presentations. A plah pla meuk appetizer features lime-and-herb-marinated octopus grilled and served over Bibb lettuce, while Chai Yo’s silky version of the coconut milk soup tom kha, flavored with galangal, lemongrass broth and mushrooms, is rich with lobster meat. Moo grob kra pow combines crisped pork belly with Thai basil, chive blossoms and chiles over jasmine rice, while beef cheeks receives a 12-hour sous vide braise in Panang curry for the dish Neau Panang, which also holds green beans and Brussels sprouts. Family recipes find their way to the menu as well, such as the sakoo sai gai, a tapioca-based dumpling filled with turnip, shrimp and chicken. It's a modified version of a dumpling by Nan’s mother, a street food vendor in Thailand, and this is the first time it'll appear on any of the Niyomkul restaurant menus.
The drinks: Timothy Faulkner heads up the bar, and he’s positioning Chai Yo as the most cocktail-focused among the family’s restaurants. Faulkner, an alum of Restaurant Eugene and 8ARM, is incorporating many Thai-influenced ingredients into the drinks, such as an apple brandy–based Soot Yod accented with peanut orgeat, pear liqueur, curacao and lime juice, while the Nam Dok fuses vodka, falernum, citrus juices and butterfly pea flowers. Litchis, lemongrass and kaffir lime also appear in other cocktails.
The space: In the same posh Buckhead plaza as Umi, Atlas and Chops, Chai Yo maintains the upscale approachability of its neighbors. Elegant wood, both dark and light, was sourced from Northern Thailand to outfit the interior, matched with leather banquettes and touches like geometric chandeliers decked out in silver and gold. The 3,400-sq.-ft. space, which seats 90, has a private chef's table seating up to 10, and a bar that's well positioned for a view of the action in the kitchen. Expect patio seating to open up in the warmer months.
The details: 3050 Peachtree Rd. NW, Suite R-8; 404-464-7980; Chai Yo is open for dinner 5:30–10 PM Monday through Thursday, 5:30–11 PM Fridays and Saturdays and is closed on Sundays, with plans to open for weekday lunch in late February