Bank Atchawaran has opened a Thai restaurant in Las Vegas, which makes perfect sense. His parents owned restaurants here and in California, and he spent the last decade working his way up at the acclaimed Lotus of Siam, taking off after managing the dining room and wine list for several years.
Now he’s built Chada Thai & Wine in Chinatown. It’s nothing like Lotus, and it’s probably nothing like his parents’ restaurants, either. For starters, it’s open until 3 a.m. The wine list is compact and affordable, with most bottles sliding in between $30 and $60. And the food invites exploration, putting twists on familiar dishes and offering other bites you can’t find anywhere else.
- Chada Thai & Wine
- 3400 S. Jones Blvd. #11A, 641-1345.
- Daily, 5:30 p.m.-3 a.m.
Atchawaran says he was ready for a new challenge, and he knew his restaurant would be big on wine. “When I started [at Lotus] I didn’t know anything about wine,” he says. “But I picked up little bits here and there, read some books, and I have some great mentors. There are a lot of great wine people in this town.”
Anyone who has dined around the city’s Thai restaurants knows wine is the key ingredient separating Lotus from the pack. Drinking wine with Thai food is “getting better, happening more, but it’s still not at the level I really want,” Atchawaran says. “It’s still new to most people. But I definitely want the focus here to be on wine—that’s why I put it in the name. We want people to be comfortable here drinking wine, and our list is very accessible.”
His by-the-glass price averages about $8. The Riesling list is extensive. “Almost everything is in that approachable range, but we have some gems, too,” he says. Beer is also in the mix, like the delightful Belgian Hoegaarden at $4 or Singha at $4.50.
With this wine list, these hours and this location, Chada’s clientele should be pretty young and hip. “I am hoping we attract younger people and try to open their minds up about wine,” Atchawaran says. It will be a great after-hours haunt for the industry crowd, but earlier in the evening it’s time for date night or casual dinner in a very welcoming environment.
Start with soothing coconut tom kah kai soup, loaded with tender chicken and mushrooms. Then split some intriguing appetizers: Miang pou ($9) are lettuce wraps with crab meat, ginger and crispy coconut. Lo-ba ($8) is more adventurous—pig ear, tongue and heart braised then lightly fried. Atchawaran is looking to shine a light on the diversity of Thai food. “We try to find new dishes and incorporate other dishes from the south that no one really has here.” He likes the crab curry ($12) with thin rice noodles.
Everything is a little different at Chada. There’s beef in the panang curry and chicken leg in the massaman curry, and pad Thai comes with thinner noodles and the egg on top instead of mixed in. It’s hard not to order crispy pork belly with ong choy greens ($9), a simple and satisfying dish. Likewise for lemongrass-stuffed grilled tilapia with basil and lime leaf, pla pao ($15). The flavors stay balanced, never just spicy and sweet. Ask for the fish sauce with chopped bird’s eye chilies so you can add kick when you like.
It would make perfect sense to call Chada an early success, but this place is just getting started. There’s so much wine and food still to explore.