In a city with an army of master sommeliers, lesser known wine guys are likely to stay, well, lesser-known. Take Bank Atcharawan off that list. The owner of Chada Thai & Wine and former manager at Lotus of Siam was named one of Food & Wine’s Sommeliers of the Year for 2013 in the magazine’s April issue. (Check out the article online.)
National recognition for a local food and beverage pro off the Strip is a rarity, and Atchawaran was caught off guard. He took a minute to chat with the Weekly about the honor.
So how did this happen? (laughs) I was surprised. I guess they heard about what I did at Lotus and found out about the opening of [Chada], too, and they were curious and called me to ask about it. I think they found about me from talking to other somms around town.
That must make the recognition even more special, since your peers are the ones talking you up. Absolutely, it means a lot more to be mentioned by other somms, especially here in Las Vegas. I am kinda pysched that people respect what I did at Lotus and I’m proud of all the work I put into it. I think it might be the first time [someone] was mentioned by name regarding the wine list there.
You opened your own place, Chada Thai & Wine, five months ago in the Chinatown district, and your wine program there is much different from what was happening at Lotus of Siam. It got to be really big at Lotus, a selection of more than a thousand [labels]. It’s quite the opposite here. It’s a small list, and I’m trying to go toward old world wines, hot producers and smaller stuff, like labels that do under a thousand cases in production. I’m trying to find some gems out there, things that people don’t know, and we’re trying to teach a little about obscure regions and old-world style of wines. At Lotus it was more mainstream, a lot more recognizable labels instead of small stuff.
How has the reaction been to Chada’s wine list so far? It’s been great. Sometimes it can be tough to introduce new stuff people are not familiar with, but there is a lot of different stuff out there to try. And when it’s wine with Thai food, it’s not just about Riesling and other [sweet or white] wines. We’re actually working a lot more with reds. I think we can go a little further.
You recently started serving lunch at Chada, though it seems evening and later is when things get going there. Lunch is a tough business. We’re still trying it out. We’re still seeing our heavy traffic later, and I’m quite happy with the late-night crowd. It’s a lot of somms and chefs and industry people coming in, just out of work. We’ll see where it picks up and maybe go in other directions, maybe with some wine events.