The secret-feeling backyard garden is one of the city's rarest of restaurant finds—a secluded, comfortable outdoor space where you can eat, drink, and relax on a pleasant evening without dealing with constant sidewalk traffic and noise.
Wayla, a Thai restaurant that opened last Friday on Forsyth Street, has delivered the platonic ideal of a NYC restaurant garden—a large, decked-out patio with loads of greenery, twinkling lights, full-service dinner tables and loungy areas for straight boozing and snacking, plus decorative details like a beat-up old cabinet that add to the feeling of discovery.
In fact, the whole place has a hidden-treasure air about it. There's no real signage out front, so you need to know to walk down those stairs to what at first appears to be a small bar. Then you notice the four cozy booths to your left, festooned with homey touches, and then another more wraparound banquette, just past the bar. Keep heading back and a narrow, stylish dining room opens up, with comfortable seating for about 18 guests. Finally, you get to that spacious patio, and the bustle of Chinatown feels very far away.
And the food is really good here! Chef Tom Naumsuwan was born and raised in Bangkok, and his appealing menu combines traditional Thai country cooking with the street food he grew up with. Standout dishes from a solo feast last weekend included the trio of juicy pork sausages called Sai Oua; a generously portioned Khao Pad Kra Prow Nua, or fried rice with some wonderfully tender beef; and a lip-searingly spicy Kua Kling Kung, starring a half dozen or so plump, sweet, perfectly cooked shrimp.
For dessert they brought out a complimentary scoop of housemade Thai Coconut ice cream, studded with chewy jackfruit, and it was delicious.
Naumsuwan's partner in the venture is Erika Chou, last seen in these parts running things at Yunnan Kitchen on Clinton Street, and on opening weekend Wayla was already a smooth running operation. I can't wait to go back to try more of the menu... if they promise not to dumb anything down. The staff seemed extremely concerned with the heat level of everything, and I probably had four separate conversations about whether something was "too hot." It never was. Just cook it the way you would like to eat it, please, and I'm sure other people will enjoy it too.
(Scott Lynch / Gothamist)
Wayla is located at 100 Forsyth Street, between Broome and Grand Streets, and is open from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, until midnight Thursday through Saturday, and until 10 p.m. on Sunday (212-206-2500; waylanyc.com)