That includes participating for eight weeks in late spring in the Feed the Frontlines initiative, to prepare meals for Emory health care workers; launching curbside takeout, a service option at Tuk Tuk that continues to see brisk business; and getting creative with food — be it the casual street fare at Tuk Tuk or the contemporary takes on Thai classics at upscale Chai Yo in Buckhead.
Mondays are now synonymous with fried chicken. That’s Spicy Thai Fried Chicken Sandwich Night at Chai Yo, while Thai fried chicken makes a special appearance at Tuk Tuk. Both are prepared using a recipe inspired by Niyomkul’s grandmother, Payow Sanguankiat, a former street food vendor in Bangkok. “We’re kind of having fun with it,” Niyomkul said of the Monday meal shake-up.
She’s also having fun as she prepares to launch a line of Thai sauces. The sleekly designed pouches bear the label Nandee, and come in a trio of curry flavors — green, panang and massaman — as well as a Thai-style stir fry sauce. These Thai pantry perks will be sold online and shipped nationwide, and they factor into the plan to convert the lobby at Tuk Tuk into a market.
Nandee is a line of Thai sauces by chef Dee Dee Niyomkul of Chai Yo Modern Thai, / Courtesy of Dee Dee Niyomkul
“Take it home, add a protein and vegetables of your choice, and there you go,” Niyomkul said. When the Tuk Tuk market debuts in mid-November, the coolers also will be filled with grab-and-go prepared foods, and, eventually, meal kits.
Niyomkul said that packaged sauces and adding the market both had been projects on the wish list for some time. The pandemic is what spurred the team to action. “It has brought a lot of inspiration to things we want to do with our restaurants and brand,” she said. “This is a perfect time.”
She conceded that, prior to the arrival of COVID-19, “things were kind of on autopilot. Now, it’s adaption, creativity.”
“I’ve worked harder than I have in a long time,” said the leader of the all-female management team at Chai Yo. Her jobs lately range from cooking for ticketed Thai barbecue cookouts to entertaining guests at the private chef’s table, while preparing eight-course wine dinners.
The upscale Chai Yo offers contemporary takes on Thai classics. Courtesy of Erik Meadows Photography
Credit: Yvonne Zusel
Credit: Yvonne Zusel
“Even chef DeeDee is washing dishes,” chimed in Tamarind Restaurant Group Chief Operating Officer Mike O’Kelly.
“Or bar-backing,” Niyomkul added.
With the uptick in Chai Yo’s catering orders for office workers who have begun to return to their desks, the return of the majority of nearly 100 employees across all three restaurants, and the forthcoming Tuk Tuk market and Nandee sauces, the outlook for Tamarind Restaurant Group is bright — as bright as Niyomul’s finger-licking Thai fried chicken with papaya salad, and as bright as the view of Midtown from Tuk Tuk’s third-story Skyline Patio on a gorgeous Monday in autumn.
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Tossed with fried garlic, mint and cilantro, Thai Sticky Wings are a recent specialty item on the menu at Tuk Tuk Thai Food Loft. / Courtesy of DeeDee Niyomkul
TUK TUK THAI FOOD LOFT
Menu: Thai street food
Alcohol: full bar available for on-premises dining, wine available for takeout
What I ordered: Thai fried chicken special (available Mondays only), with papaya salad and sticky rice; seared scallop pumpkin curry fried rice (seasonal special); Thai sticky wings (specialty item); green curry with jasmine rice; side of roti and sautéed vegetables
Service options: dine-in or takeout; curbside available upon request; order in person, online or by phone; delivery (within 8-mile radius) via ChowNow
Outdoor dining: third-floor covered Skyline Patio
Mask policy: all employees masked; guests must wear masks to enter, and when not seated
Enhanced safety measures: guest temperature check at reception desk; touchless QR Code menus
Address, phone: 1745 Peachtree Road NW, Atlanta; 678-539-6181
Hours: lunch, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Mondays-Fridays; dinner, 5:30-10 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 5-10 p.m. Fridays-Sundays
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