By Sanique Lim
For over 30 years, from a Thai youngster’s dream of introducing his hometown food to the world in New York City, the dream has emerged into a modern and upscale Thai restaurant today located on the always so trendy Upper East Side. Jaiya is the culmination of an ultimate experience in serving traditional Thai cuisine that collaborates with a cutting edge trendy concept of modern style restaurants found nowadays in New York.
Since opening its doors in 1978, the fundamental mentality of Jaiya has been always focused on the same vision: “true Thai culture can be expressed through its peerless cuisine”. Indeed, it has always been more effective to swallow the essence of a culture than to speak of it. Inspired by the cuisine of Wanne Pokpoonpipat, who arrived in New York City in the early 1970s with her hands holding a dream, and the knowledge of her own hometown cuisine. Pledging to always cook with dignity, she wanted her culture and food to be known to the world. Her dedication and passion can still be felt through the spices and herbs found in Jaiya’s menu today. At Jaiya, you don’t merely taste the delicious food, but you sense the culture of Thai, and a person’s passion for her own hometown cuisine.
No one walks into Jaiya without being impressed. The moment you walk past the fountain on the side of the front door, it follow s after the astonishing interior design of the restaurant. Jaiya promises to amaze its customers with its efforts seen from every perspective, Jaiya delivers a memorable dining experience to each of their customers. It took Jaiya 18 months to design and decorate, carefully selecting custom crafted furnishings, or ordered pieces directly from artists in Thailand. Alos, take special note of the statue of the mythical figure “Kinnaree”, an angel of half woman and half swan who is renowned for her dance, song, and poetry.
Jaiya’s signature dishes express its genuine dedication to Thai cuisine while at the same time giving a nod to the assimilation of East and West cultural elements. The Triple Flavor Whole Fish, is served in a triad of sweet, spicy, and sour flavor, and authentically cooked in a traditional Wok to preserve the natural essence of the whole fish and its freshness. The Tamarind Duck is another must-try dish from Jaiya. Crispy roast duck served with the house special tamarind marmalade, giving the duck three core elements of a Thai recipe; aroma, colors, and the unique taste of tamarind marmalade all combined with crispy duck.
The key factor that Jaiya is considered as a “cutting edge” concept of a modern Thai restaurant in New York City is its impressive and gorgeous wine and liquor bar. Fans of Jaiya would surely know what’s the best cocktail to order; its innovative cocktails are renowned on the Upper East Side with their fresh ingredients. One of my favorites, the Lychee Burst, is homemade lychee juice mixed with sparkling champagne, and is definitely both a classy and satisfying cocktail. The Fire and Ice cocktail is another surprise to your taste buds; also known as the Thai Chili Margarita, Fire and Ice is comprised of fresh Thai Chilies, Himalayan Pink Salt, and Espolon Tequila. It arrives with a slight flame that you cap off and extinguish with a lemon skin; a perfect ending to your hectic day in New York City.
In addition, Jaiya has a collection of a variety of rare liquors and wines. Imported from Europe and all corners of the world, make sure to inquire of the bartender which is the best scotch they have in house. You may be surprised to find yourself drinking a scotch that’s hard to find in any other restaurant in New York City! For those who may prefer a glass of wine, Jaiya again, does not disappoint. The Chateau de Beaucastel, one of the recommended wines at Jaiya, is stored and managed carefully in the wine refrigerator at a temperature of 50-55F, ensuring the best enjoyment for its taster to experience.
Strategically located in the Upper East Side, 1553 Second Avenue, the Jaiya has won the word of mouth of the people in the neighborhood; some even claimed Jaiya as the facade to introduce the westerners with its great Thai Cuisine in New York City! Jaiya is also conveniently located at another location in Gramercy, at 396 Third Avenue.