Episode 68: From Bangkok to Bond St ft. Fish Cheeks
Aaand we’re back! To kick off our summer season, Chef and Co-owner Ohm Suansilphong and Co-owner Jenn Saesue of Fish Cheeks joined us to talk about their unique approach to Thai food in New York, and their journey from Bangkok to Bond St. Each dish on the menu is a combination of unfiltered flavors, an intensity in freshness, and unapologetic heat. When Pete Wells of the New York Times reviewed the restaurant, he said “it simply cooks the way I wish more Thai kitchens did”.
When Jenn and Ohm wanted to open a Thai restaurant they logically landed on a seafood concept. Thai people eat so much seafood, they thought “why don’t you have it here”. They saw the gap and decided to fill it. As New Yorkers’ palettes have evolved with travel, Jenn and Ohm knew it was time to deliver the spice, heat and fragrance levels that would match what they found in Thailand and moved beyond the standard Thai takeout fare.
Jenn knew she wanted a spot downtown and when they saw the Bond St. location it was better than what they imagined. A vibrant Thai restaurant challenging the status quo among Italian eateries. After they signed the lease, they opened within 6 months—record speed in the restaurant world.
Dishes and meals are meant to be shared at Fish Cheeks. Ohm loves to change up his menu seasonally but there are some crowd-favorites that you’ll find year-round, including the coconut crab curry that they make by hand (the curry paste is crushed from over a dozen ingredients, and it takes eight hours to make one pot), steamed fish with Thai herbs (it comes in a own fish-shaped dish typical by Thai standards, but delightful for IG-obsessed diners), and crab fried rice. Ohm, ever the perfectionist, is exasperated when he can’t find all the ingredients for a dish, especially the elusive betel leaf. Given his integrity to achieve the perfect flavors from Bangkok, sometimes he’ll opt not to add a new dish without the right herbs.
These talented young guns have already launched another successful project with the Northeastern Thai food concept Chicks Isan in Dekalb Market, Downtown Brooklyn, where you can find their zesty and popular Zabb wings, based on a familiar and comforting flavor that every Thai kid grew up with (tune in to find out!). However, the team admits that they are not without failure. When Fish Cheeks first opened, they tried to take everything on themselves and soon experienced burnout from working 7 days a week for 6 months. Both Jenn and Ohm agree in that case, you can’t think of anything else, you don’t get fresh ideas, or come up with new ways to approach problems. They’ve since learned to work with a bigger team.