Flying first class isn’t something you do very often, unless you’re a celebrity or maybe the heir to the Shamwow fortune. However, every now and then it’s nice to treat yourself to a way more comfortable flight, and the same can be said about a trip to Chai Yo. This upscale Thai restaurant isn’t going to become part of your go-to rotation, but it’s a great option for when you want to spend a little extra on a really good meal.
Located in Buckhead, Chai Yo - whose name comes from the Thai word for “hooray” - is intimate enough for a big date, but also has a long bar and private dining room if your 11 closest friends or coworkers also feel like upgrading their Wednesday nights. And just like how you notice the extra leg room and complimentary champagne in first class, the food at Chai Yo is more interesting and a little higher quality than just about anywhere else in the city.
photo credit: Andrew Thomas Lee
The panang curry, for instance, is made with beef cheeks that have been braised for 12 hours, and both the tom kha soup and khao soi come with lobster, instead of the traditional chicken or beef. They also serve great cocktails and a wide variety of wine, neither of which will make or break a trip here, but just like the airplane blanket that you magically wake up wrapped in, they each make the experience just a little nicer.
Between the excellent service, the food, and the space itself - which is covered in salvaged wood imported from Thailand - Chai Yo is a great option for when you want to treat yourself to a really nice dinner. And while this place is definitely expensive, it still costs less than upgrading to first class.
Lobster Tom Kha (Thai Lobster Coconut Soup)
This is a perfect example of what Chai Yo does best. You’ve had Tom Kha before, but the lobster makes it a little more special, like when you’re on a long flight and your seat leans back more than six inches.
Plah Pla Meuk (Octopus Lemongrass Salad)
If all salads were topped with octopus, we’d all be eating way more salads. Make sure to hang onto your spoon from the Tom Kha to finish off all of the leftover dressing.
Neau Panang (Beef Cheeks Panang)
Yes, this dish sounds a little over the top. Also yes, $34 is a lot for a curry. However, this is the best dish on the menu and it’s what you’ll be thinking about over the next time you have curry anywhere else.
Pad thai is always delicious, but ordering it at Chai Yo feels like a wasted opportunity to eat something way more unique. That said, this is still really good pad thai.
Molten Chocolate Cake
Dessert is more of an afterthought here, but if you really need something sweet after all of the savory and spicy food you just ate, this is a good choice (and it comes with ice cream).