Craving a staycation? Step out of the winter thunderstorms and into a stylish, resort-like atmosphere for some finely-tuned southern Thai cuisine as Chalong NYC opens on 9th Avenue.
In the space once occupied by Blue Ribbon Chicken, a group of longtime hospitality alums led by Chef Nate Limwong bring the flavors of Limwong’s native Surat Thani, a beachside province approximately 404 miles south of Bangkok where specialties like banana-leaf baked sea bass (grilled Hor Mok), fried crabmeat, shrimp and pork patties (Jor Pu) and signature house-made curries (Sator Gong) rule the day.
“People in southern Thailand love spicy food,” said co-owner Booky Rattanapokasatit, who joins Chef Limwong and fellow operators Pattamon “CC” Kerdojwongkul and JR Raksasuwan. “We’re known for spicy, seafood-based food, but we also offer southern Thai takes on dishes like Pad Thai and Pad See Ew, which our chef has worked to make unique,” he added. Chalong’s trademark Pad Thai features region-specific touches like coconut cream as an homage to the cuisine of Surat Thani.
And while Chalong is a new venture, the team works together with the ease of a group who have known each other for years — because they have. Booky and Chef Nate met seven years ago working at the well-regarded Thai spot Fish Cheeks in Soho, then moved to the Michelin-starred Soothr in Union Square, where working with CC and JR convinced them to band together and branch out on their own to open Chalong.
9th Avenue is well-known for top-notch Thai cuisine, but the team at Chalong is confident that their regional fare can stand out from the crowd. “Hell’s Kitchen is a place for both tourists and neighbors, a lot of whom know Thai food really well. We’re ready to represent something a little different,” said Booky. JR added: “We want to represent southern Thai food because enough people have been to Thailand or know the regional cuisine well enough that they’ll appreciate it.”
As well as experimenting with different menu items, the team will add new and seasonal dishes as they survey customer tastes — and they’ve planned an extensive cocktail program, once the liquor license comes through. “It’s top secret,” laughed JR, adding that they will announce their spirits menu shortly.
For now, patrons can enjoy a refreshing mocktail spritzer or one of the restaurant’s fresh coconut waters, served out of a branded fruit that adds to the high-end resort vibe of the wicker and wood-paneled bar and dining room. The plant-filled, serene surroundings are meant to evoke the luxury resorts of southern Thailand, said CC, who designed the space as a way for customers to quickly feel transported from Midtown’s outside chaos.
More Hell’s Kitchen Newcomers
Thus far, Hell’s Kitchen locals and New Yorkers at large have flocked to the eatery, which has been open for two weeks. “We’ve already had a bunch of people who are on their third or fourth time!” said JR.
The warm welcome was also extended by fellow West Side business owners, who answered questions about the area and offered support as fellow HK restaurateurs. “We knew that 9th Avenue is competitive — but once we opened up we’ve had lots of business owners come by to tell us ‘congratulations’ or say that they’ll spread the word about us,” JR added.
And though they are aware that only the strong survive in Hell’s Kitchen’s sometimes brutal culinary landscape, “we’re still really excited,” said JR. “We have to establish ourselves, one day at a time, to stand out and show ourselves as unique. And it’s a challenge for our chef and a challenge for us that we’re ready for.”
Chalong NYC is located at 749 9th Avenue (bw W50th/W51st St) and is open for lunch 12pm to 4pm seven days a week, and dinner from 5pm to 10pm Sunday through Thursday as well as 5pm to 11pm Friday and Saturday.