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New Thai Spot Has Grand Opening on Second Avenue

Tha Phraya

Tha Phraya opened this weekend at 1553 Second Avenue.

Across the water from Wat Arun, a Buddhist temple in Bangkok, Thailand is a strip of shops, theaters and restaurants, all of which call the Chao Phraya River their front yard. Tha Phraya at 1553 Second Avenue (between 80th and 81st streets), which had its grand opening on Saturday, was designed to mimic the appearance of one such restaurant overlooking the Chao Phraya and Wat Arun.

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The name Tha Phraya means “a pier on the Phraya River.” On the back wall of the restaurant is a mirror with a mosaic of Wat Arun and the surrounding Bangkok architecture. A little further up, you will find décor that mimics a 1960s Bangkok theatre.

Tha Phraya now occupies the space that used to house Cho-Zen, which had a short-lived tenure in the neighborhood. It joins at least three other Second Avenue Thai restaurants within 10 blocks on either side, including Bua Thai between 83rd and 84th streets, THEP Thai on 75th, and Up Thai between 73rd and 74th streets.

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When asked what inspired her to open another Thai restaurant in the neighborhood, co-owner Manna Che stated that when most people think of Thai food, they just think of a few staple dishes, such as Pad Thai, Pad Se Ew, Pad Kee Mao and curries. “But those are old school,” she said.

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The cuisine at Tha Phraya is reminiscent of what one would find in Bangkok—in other words, culinary diversity reflective of every region in Thailand. Che continued, “We want our customers to experience the food but also the culture of the food. We want them to be open to something new. We are bringing a new version of Thai food to the Upper East Side, targeting residents with fine taste.”

Manna Che at Tha Phraya

Manna Che at Tha Phraya

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Che, 27, was born in Phuket, Thailand and came to the United States at age 13. Prior to opening Tha Phraya, she worked for two years at another Thai restaurant on the Lower East Side called Soothr Thai Noodle Bar, where she “learned everything [she knows] about running a restaurant.” She always knew she wanted to open her own restaurant but didn’t know what it would be like until she started working at Soothr. Che shared, “The restaurant business is one of the toughest industries to be in. There’s a lot of heavy labor. You need to have a strong mentality.”

the bar at tha phraya

The bar at Tha Phraya

Some of Che’s favorite dishes on the menu are Kang Pu ($29), a spicy crab curry originating from Phuket that is served with vermicelli noodles, and Nuer Toon Mor Fai ($32), a slowly stewed beef soup originating from central Bangkok. As Tha Phraya is still in its soft opening phase, the current offering of vegetarian options is limited but includes Pak Mor ($16), a rice crepe filled with sweet radish, red onion, and coconut. Pak Mor is the perfect combination of soft on the outside and crispy on the inside.

Pak Mor

Pak Mor

Che expects to add more vegetarian options to their menu in the next two weeks. A unique dessert item is the Ice Cream Mor Fai ($25)—three servings of ice cream served together in a hot pot and seasonal topping.

Tha Phraya is also still waiting on its full liquor license, so only beer and wine are being served right now.


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