If you frequent the South 1st area, which has become a recent hot spot thanks to the addition of acclaimed restaurants Lenoir, Elizabeth’s and JMueller BBQ, you may have noticed construction taking place on an ominous black building in the neighborhood. It was recently announced that this would be the home of Sway, a new Thai restaurant developed by the team behind the award-winning Mexican restaurant La Condesa.
The team behind Sway includes restaurateurs Jesse Herman and Delfo Trombetta, Executive Chef René Ortiz, Food & Wine’s “Best New Pastry Chef” Laura Sawicki, and Cocktail World Cup victor Nate Wales. The restaurant, located at 1417 South First Street, will offer a unique menu that blends traditional and innovative Thai techniques and ingredients packed with plenty of flavor.
Jesse Herman and Chef René Ortiz both spent time separately in Australia, where Thai food is as ubiquitous as Mexican food in Texas, and were inspired by the modern Australian style of Thai cooking they were exposed to. In developing Sway’s menu, Chef Ortiz drew on his time spent working under world-renowned Thai chefs in Australia to develop dishes that combine tradition with innovation.
“I think that Rene’s Thai food is even better than his Mexican food,” says Herman. “We spent time in Australia last year just going around and checking out what was going on in Thai food. There are a lot of world class Thai restaurants in Australia that are more modern, with really interesting menus, and that’s what we are trying to do here. It is going to be totally new experience for people who are used to Thai food.”
Some of the dishes Sway will offer include Prawn Miange (toasted coconut, smokey peanuts, served on betel leaf); Jungle Curry (red curry of chicken with eggplant and French beans); Rose Apple Stir Fry (chicken with shiitake, holy basil, and red chili); Pad Kwetio (rice stick noodle with smoked chicken, prawn, and holy basil); and Tamarind Glazed Beef (caramelized onion, crispy garlic, lime, and green chili paste).
To design the restaurant Herman collaborated with award-winning architect Michael Hsu to create an interpretation of a traditional northern Thai–style lanna house, with an entirely open theater-style kitchen.
“I think the most unique aspect of this restaurant is the kitchen,” Herman says. “It’s completely open, with no walls and no columns, and a French-style island where all of the chefs work together. The whole concept is there’s no separation between you and the chef. You can sit at the kitchen and see the fire from the wok station and see our custom charcoal grill and rotisserie. A big part of the experience is being able to see this really exotic food being made.”
The restaurant will also stand out with its communal seating, encouraging family-style dining and sharing.
“We’re just trying to do something that’s just a little bit different,” says Herman. “The idea with this style of food and with a lot of traditional Asian dining is that it’s meant to be enjoyed together. It’s totally shareable with a lot of different plates coming to the table.”
The tables will sit 12-16 people, as well as patio seating which is overlooked by a traditional mahogany Thai spirit house imported from Thailand. Sway will also offer an extensive selection of East and Southeast Asian beers, a great wine list, homemade sodas and kombuchas, and a wide variety of Thai and Vietnamese teas and coffees.
Sway is set to open late summer, and will be open for lunch and dinner seven days a week from 11AM to 10PM Sunday through Wednesday and 11AM to 11PM Thursday through Saturday. The restaurant has its own parking lot with 45 spaces, and will accept reservations for large parties only (8 or more), which can be made by calling 512.326.1999.