My wife and I absolutely love Thai food and eat it all the time. At home. We’re hard pressed to get up off the couch and go out to eat Thai in an actual restaurant. Why would you ditch your pajamas and television when the delivery options for Thai cuisine throughout the metro are so excellent? Well, we found a reason! Two reasons, actually: ingredients and service. I recommend you visit Chai Yo Modern Thai, the third and most underrated Thai offering from the Tamarind Group, which has been open near The Shops Buckhead Atlanta for about a year now.
A lot of the time when we order Thai delivery, it’s because we’re desperate for comfort. We don’t want to be bothered to cook and we need something yummy to soothe our aching hearts for whatever reason. Service at the average Thai place is usually solid, but not worth schlepping to obtain. Service at Chai Yo is worth the schlep. We were greeted with genuine warmth by a half dozen people from hostess to manager to bartender to servers. They checked our coats so the booth side of the table would be uncluttered. They were sweetly chatty and complimentary, offering us real attention rather than automated friendliness. They smiled as they passed our table, even on the way to some other table or the kitchen.
And then we ordered—or, we tried to order. The servers can very intelligently discuss their menu, help map out a strategy for picky eaters or enormous family feasts, and give guidance on the best way to eat a certain dish or what condiments to add for more spicy or savory flair. They delight in doing it and you know what? We were glad for the pressure to be off because basically we were tiger-mothered into trying the very best things on the menu in proper sequence. We’d planned to try two appetizers and two entrees, then bring another app and entree home to shore up leftovers into a truly epic dinner the next day.
Our server helpfully swapped some items around so that we would get the best flavor and presentation in the dining room, and the best reheating situation for later. Fast forward to the next day: I unpack the leftovers to discover how awesomely thoroughly they have packaged every single little item that could’ve spilled or gotten soggy or otherwise not turned out well. Plus every box was labelled and dated, and some had smiley faces on them. The to-go order was so expertly done that Chai Yo should get on Postmates or Uber Eats so their gospel can spread across this whole town. The expense of the food is very much worth it in terms of the service, but if you really can’t get off the couch, the price is still terrific given how they take care with the leftovers.
Ok, so the food itself is of course amazing. A lot of the dishes are amped up versions of stuff from the usual delivery places, except with very high-end proteins and veggies replacing the cheap stuff. I wasn’t sure $32 for a panang curry would be worth it, but I was wrong. Sous vide 12-hour braised beef cheeks in place of random chicken sinews? Yes, please! We also ate a wonderfully light and buttery garlic sea bass on a bed of crab fried rice, which was equally great cold the next day, and a Pad Thai made with glass noodles instead of the usual rice noodles that came with a heaping fistful of jumbo shrimp.
The best appetizers and desserts are the ones full of lemongrass. There’s an octopus salad with lime and chili paste in addition to the lemongrass. It wasn’t at all rubbery and the heat of it snuck up on us in comparison to the tapioca dumplings, where we started knocking the tiny sliver of pepper off the tops of these chewy delights to save our tongues. There are two soups that begin with a lemongrass base, and the lobster coconut soup was truly one of a kind. For dessert, we ordered a lemongrass Kaffir lime custard that has been haunting my dreams. To say it’s like a deconstructed Key lime pie is somewhat ungenerous. I could take a bath in that custard, so bright and smooth was it. The cocktail menu has similar flavors—lime, coconut, lemongrass—some of which arrive in unique copper mugs for a total effect that is far beyond home bar concoctions.
Chai Yo is a tremendous upgrade from the usual delivery Thai. If $15 lobster soup or $24 pad thai feel too exorbitant, remember that the quality of both service and ingredients definitely make the price tag worth it. Or look for their three-course $29 meal on Sundays. There are just some comforts a couch cannot provide.
Chai Yo Modern Thai is located at 3050 Peachtree Road, NE, #8, Atlanta, 30305. For more information, visit chaiyoatl.com.