clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile
An overhead photograph of a crowded table with raw fermented crab, fried meatballs, and duck salad.
Sappe is the city’s newest Isan restaurant.

Filed under:

The Team Behind Soothr Has a New Thai Restaurant

Sappe opens in Chelsea this week

In the middle of 2020, three first-time restaurateurs opened one of the most ambitious Thai restaurants in years. It started as a takeout noodle shop, but each time coronavirus regulations budged, Soothr inched closer to becoming a full restaurant. The dining room opened and the menu grew. By the time customers were sipping $17 cocktails, Eater had written it up and so had the New York Times.

Three years later, the owners have a new restaurant. It’s called Sappe (pronounced “sape”), from Chidensee Watthanawongwat, Kittiya Mokkarat, and Supatta Banklouy. Instead of noodles and curries, the 70-seat restaurant is a destination for grilled meats and fancy drinks.

The specialty is ping yang, meats cooked over charcoal and sold as skewers or in plastic bags with sticky rice. To make them, the team procured two Japanese charcoal grills, which they use to cook pork belly, intestine, squid, and more. There are 12 options in total.

An overhead photograph of a tray of grilled skewers.
Skewers are sold in sets of four for $20, nine for $40, and so on.

The restaurant is a skewer shop in the same way that Soothr is a noodle bar: That’s the focus, but it would be a mistake to stop there. Tom Khaengkarn, the chef, used to work at Soothr and before that, Somtum Der. His 33-item menu is divided into sections: ping yang, rice dishes, noodles, and salads. Scattered throughout are some raw dishes you won’t want to miss: whole fermented crabs in spicy seafood sauce and goi nuer, called “Thai beef tartare” on the menu. It’s seasoned with beef bile and lemongrass.

One of the dishes, a bloody beef salad, I hadn’t seen before. Sok lek kua is made by cooking beef, liver, and tripe in a pan with blood and seafood sauce. You can order it that way, or raw, as a refreshing cold salad. That preparation isn’t listed on the menu, but the restaurant will make it if you ask, Watthanawongwat says.

The meats come with a pile of powder on the side. The contents are a secret, but to me, they taste like garlic and onion. Okay, fine: They taste like ranch dressing. Pinch some between your fingers, and sprinkle it on.

Customers sit inside a colorful, low-lit dining room at Sappe, a Thai restaurant.
The interior is meant to evoke old-school Thai theater. It might remind you of a Bangkok club.
Customers sit inside a colorful, low-lit dining room at Sappe, a Thai restaurant.
In the spring, the restaurant will open a back dining room with 40 more seats.

One of the owners, Banklouy, is behind the cocktails at Sappe and Soothr. They’re impressive enough that if both restaurants had a catastrophe in the kitchen, they could probably survive as bars. The drinks are named after the female leads of Thai dramas. There’s one made with vodka-fermented sticky rice, named after a poor country girl, and a spicy margarita with shaved ice and salted plum powder.

The protagonist I’d come back for is Boonrod, a Thai Long Island Iced Tea. It’s made with vodka, rum, gin, and tequila, plus pineapple and lime. When blue curacao is added to the mix, it begins to look like a Baja Blast soda from Taco Bell.

You’ll see that same color under the bar and throughout the dining room. The interior is meant to evoke old-school Thai theater, right as Western influence was creeping in. That’s why you’ll see imported stained glass next to a portrait of James Dean. But it might remind you a little of a Bangkok club: The ceilings are mirrors and the room is covered in neon. Next month, the owners will open a back room with another 40 seats.

It will make Sappe one of the biggest Thai restaurants in Manhattan.

Sappe is located at 240 W. 14th Street, near Eighth Avenue. The restaurant is open Sunday to Thursday, from 12 to 3:30 p.m. and 5 to 10:30 p.m., and Friday to Saturday, from 12 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., and 5 to 11 p.m.

NYC Pop-Up Restaurants

David Chang’s Majordōmo Heads to New York — And More Food Pop-Ups

NYC Restaurant Closings

A Seafood Shack, a ‘Shark Tank’ Alum, and More Closings

A.M. Intel

Radio Bakery Is Opening Another Brooklyn Location