First Impressions: Sway Thai
It seemed like Sway, the new Thai restaurant on S. 1st from the La Condesa team, was never going to open.
And when it finally did, a little over a week ago, everyone in the food community was buzzing. I was invited to a pre-opening tasting at Sway, and I’ve recorded my first impressions below.
Po-Pea Jay: Thai rice paper spring roll with avocado, carrot, and vermicelli, served with tomato vinegar was a fresh way to kick off the meal.
Chicken Wings covered in a sticky-sweet caramel tamarind chili sauce sprinkled with fish sauce and thai basil was one of the most memorable dishes, and woke up our taste buds. I think this will become one of Sway’s signature dishes and was among the favorites of those at our table (tables are communal with up to 16 to a table, although the restaurant is loud so it’s difficult to hear those sitting more than two spots away). For me, it was a bit too much on the sweet side.
Neon Lotus Chicken Salad: One of my least favorite dishes with crispy lotus root, snow peas, banana blossom and a coconut-chili dressing. However, I don’t often eat lotus root and banana blossom so perhaps it’s an acquired taste.
XO mussels: An instant classic. These were delicious and served with crawfish XO sauce, bacon, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, thai chili, sweet onion. This one hit it out of the park for me in terms of the perfect combination of flavors. I would definitely order it again.
Pad Thai with rice noodles, prawns, tofu, egg, toasted cashew, bean sprout, and holy basil was less egg-ey and nutty than I’m used to, but it was enjoyable.
I love green curry with tofu and it’s my go-to order at Thai restaurants, so I was most anticipating Sway’s Green Curry with tofu, peas, potato, baby corn, thai eggplant, and pickled fresno chile. This was maybe the hottest dish of the tasting, and while I love a spicy curry, I wished that Sway had incorporated at least a little bit of coconut milk to help mellow out the heat and give my taste buds a chance to enjoy the flavor of the curry. It was also had a weirdly grainy consistency that a little coconut milk would have minimized.
Son in Law: Another winner! I could eat this dish for lunch and dinner every day for a week and be happy. It’s a slightly boiled, and then fried egg that comes to the table cut in two and ready to coat the rest of the dish with deliciousness. Along with that is braised pork shoulder, soy, and chili vinegar. Umami, baby.
Salt + Pepper Tofu: This was a good dish, but didn’t excite me. If you like pressed and fried tofu with salt and pepper, you’ll be happy with this version I think.
[No photo suggests I was either drunk by this time, bored with the dish, or both]
Jasmine Tea Panna Cotta with red grape, lychee, palm sugar, holy basil, crunchy amaranth, coconut-lychee sorbet was a refreshing, interesting dessert.
Miso-white chocolate semifreddo with sesame, crispy rice, coconut sticky rice, and mango-calamnsi sorbet was also refreshing and interesting.
Both desserts were similar in that they combined room temperature and cold elements, along with toasted flavors for crunch and to balance the sweetness. Overall, they were a lovely way to end the meal.
Designed by Michael Hsu, who designed Uchi, Uchiko, La Condesa, Olivia, and P Terry’s, among other local restaurants, includes a lot of beautiful wood elements, a huge open kitchen, a lovely courtyard, and large square communal tables. The night we went it was packed and LOUD — I think the noise is something the owners of Sway will have to figure out with some kind of sound-muting design techniques. However, after our meal we went to sit outside on the patio, and I can imagine that would be a wonderful place to eat if they serve food out there.
I looked up at the ceiling and saw that Austin’s KnittaPlease had made their mark on the dining room as well.
Menu and Price:
While our meal was complimentary and we experienced a tasting so dishes were perhaps composed differently than they would be on a normal day, I have checked out the menu online, and would say the pricing is less expensive than La Condesa, but more expensive than your neighborhood family-owned Thai restaurant. And I’m sure that the portions are smaller. That said, the ingredients and flavor combinations are top-notch so it isn’t fair to compare Sway to the place you order out Thai from when you’re too tired to cook.
Price-wise, they offer daily chef’s tasting menus — seven dishes for $35 a person and ten dishes for $45 a person that look like a really good deal and are competitive with tasting menus at neighboring Lenoir (three courses for $35) and Carillon at UT (three courses for $29).
They also offer “Moo Sway” a family-style feast that must be reserved ahead of time and includes whole slow roasted pork shoulder, a dozen freshly shucked oysters, jasmine rice and assorted sauces. It also comes with “an assortment of other specialties from the regular menu to round out the meal.” It serves 8-10 people and pricing isn’t listed on the website.
Per neighborhood rules, Sway can’t serve hard alcohol, but they have an interesting selection of wine and beer. They also make their own kombucha, and have a really interesting menu of non-alcoholic drinks.
Sway is open for lunch and dinner every day of the week. They only take reservations for 8 or more and if you make a reservation, you’ve gotta lock into one of the tasting menus. They do have an on-site parking lot, but on a busy night, you might need to find a parking spot in the neighborhood, like we did.Tags: Michael Hsu, s. 1st, sway, thai