the calm before the storm: photo courtesy of Eater Austin
Carson and I celebrated Valentine's Day on Friday the 15th and, while I knew we'd escaped some of the prix fixe menu madness and reservation mayhem, I also knew that the two-month-old and trendier-than-ever Sway Thai would be none the calmer.
And boy was I right.
I was really excited to finally make it to Sway, as I'd been hearing so many mixed opinions-- everything from rave reviews to underwhelmed impressions (which usually had more to do with the wait and the prices than anything else). As one snarky Yelper pointed out, "Obviously you're not going to find the city's best $9.00 Pad Kee Mao here!" So true. There are plenty of Thai places where you go to enjoy standardly good, cheap Thai food. And this is not one of them.
(This brought to mind the opening of Elizabeth Street Cafe when people were outraged at the $23 pho on the menu, ha!)
We began with the prawn miange, an appetizer with some intense flavors-- a great way to wake up the taste buds in preparation for the meal, really! I found it to be a good balance of briny, salty, and sweet. It also had amazing texture, with broiled and whole dried shrimp, dried peanuts and shallot, coconut, grapefruit, and fresno chili piled onto betel leaves (which looked suspiciously like the vines growing outside in the courtyard!) to be rolled up and eaten like lettuce wraps.
po-pea jay (vegetable spring rolls)
Next came the po-pea jay-- fancy name for spring rolls. These were rather disappointing, to be honest: avocado, carrot, vermicelli, salt and pepper wrapped in rice paper. The accompanying tomato vinegar jam was the best thing about this dish and at least added a little acidic kick to the dry, bland rolls.
tom kha gai
Yummmm the tom kha gai soup was amazing!! I would come back here for this soup alone. There was a perfect amount of spiciness to it (which our waiter quickly and impressively identified as nam prik pao), with a coconut (and almost peanutty-tasting) broth, big juicy chunks of chicken, fresh baby corn and bamboo shoots (two of my favorites!), refreshing lemongrass, and snow peas. This has to go down as one of my favorite soups in town.
son in law
We were already full by the time our entrees arrived, but we pulled through like the champions we are. I knew the Son in Law was a must because everyone I know who'd been to Sway-- whether they loved it or not so much-- raved about this dish. And it really did stand up to the hype: perfectly sweet, tender, pork fell apart over fragrant sticky rice, with a crispy farm egg (panko-fried perhaps?), plenty of torn cilantro, and a sprinkle of chili vinegar. It is a simple, hearty, and delicious dish I want to try to replicate at home.
By the time our noodle dish arrived, I was about to burst out of my dress. Good thing it was not as delicious as the Son in Law, so I had no problem forfeiting most of it to the doggie bag. I did love the very wide rice noodles they use, which folded up into gelatinous ribbons. The Chinese broccoli, pork belly, and tofu made for an interesting combination, but really the dish was just overly salted AND sweet-- overseasoned in general, I'd say (which many people on Yelp complain about, but this is the only dish where I found that to be the case).
Thai tea affogato
On our way to Sway, I'd announced that we absolutely must save room for dessert because, in my opinion, Laura Sawicki is the best pastry chef in town.
Whoops, we kinda forgot to save room for dessert. Luckily, that's never stopped me before.
And by the look of this dessert menu, I think I need to return just to try out some more of these creations (not to mention all the drinking vinegars and iced tea blends they make in house!)
But tonight it had to be the Thai tea affogato. I absolutely love Thai tea-- whatever is in that mysterious orange liquid!-- and I love tapioca too. Oh hey, and classic affogato! So this was a no brainer: a scoop of condensed milk ice cream, surrounded by black tea tapioca and crumbled with macadamia cookies. Slowly pour a little silver pitcher of Thai tea over the whole thing and indulge. Our waiter called it a "sweet ride" and he couldn't be more correct.
a full and happy us.. can you believe we didn't make it salsa dancing afterwards? :)