Since our marriage, the go-to Thai place for my wife Jun and I have been Ugly Baby (see my most recent review here https://kenscale.com/2019/03/24/ugly-baby-revisit/) but we are always open to trying a new place that showcases the country’s fiery and versatile cuisine. Wayla in Lower East Side has long been on my list but I couldn’t quite find a time to visit. On a recent Saturday when we didn’t have much plans, we finally found the opportunity to come to the restaurant. It was a gorgeous early September day, so we thought it would be a perfect time to check out the backyard before the weather gets too cold. It turned out to be a wise choice as we really loved the effortless, casual vibe of the space immediately made us fond of this place. Even better, the food at Wayla was quite excellent.
Surprisingly, the food that we didn’t quite get into was moo sarong (crispy noodle wrapped pork meatballs) that seems to have become one of the go-to appetizer dishes at the restaurant. It wasn’t bad at all, but not particularly memorable either. On the other hand, the som tum green papaya salad with dried shrimp, peanuts and crushed chilies was quite excellent, with the crispy texture of papaya working beautifully with the deceptively spicy kick coming from the chilies. Jun remarked this is likely the best som tum salad she had tried in her lifetime. If you are not afraid of spicy flavor, definitely go for kua kling kung (wok-fried shrimp and Southern Thai chili paste). After a few bites of this dish, I was starting to sweat like I had just come from a Tone House session (which I swear by as hands down the best group workout class), but I simply couldn’t stop eating these delicious shrimps!
Our choice of yellow curry turned out to be a very wise choice in that respect, as the curry itself was more on the sweet than the spicy side but its sweetness was able to neutralize the burning sensation coming from the shrimps. While we both wished the curry to have a bit more kick, there was no question that the flavor has a lot more depth than an ordinary red curry you get from Thai delivery places. The combination of spicy shrimps and sweet curry would certainly be considered one of the best duos of food I’ve had at a restaurant this year. After we finished both dishes, we weren’t quite full so decided to order larb pla tod, a dish of whole fried branzino with shallots and chilies. The flavor of the fish was just about right in terms of spiciness, but the fish itself was not as tightly battered as we would’ve expected, and we were wondering why the kitchen had to go through all the works of cutting the fish into filets and then trying them like the way the excellent fried turmeric sea bream at Ugly Baby was.
Wayla doesn’t accept reservations so be prepared for some wait time if you want to grab prime time seats. It’s still gorgeous outside so definitely do take advance of their cozy and lively backyard before the fall weather hits. There is full bar with some pretty well-made cocktails using Thai ingredients; when I was struggling with the fiery shrimps, our server gratefully brought a cup of Thai iced tea that I enjoyed quite a lot. Jun and I think Wayla can be one of the go-to Thai places that we can come by every once in a while when we have a craving for some spicy flavor. I certainly would like to try more dishes next time, perhaps with a group of friends, to get the full picture of what the kitchen can do.
KenScale: 8.25/10 (Jun’s Score: 8.25/10)
- Creativity: 8.0/10
- Execution: 8.5/10
- Ingredients: 8.0/10
- Flavor: 8.5/10
- Texture: 8.0/10
- Value: 8.5/10
Address: 100 Forsyth Street, New York, NY 10002
Telephone: (212) 206-2500