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Roughly nine months after breaking ground, Chutatip “Nok” Suntaranon and her partners are ready to open the doors of their expansive new Kalaya, located at 4 West Palmer Street, between Frankford Avenue and Front Street in Philadelphia’s Fishtown neighborhood. The restaurant, inspired by and named after Suntaranon’s mother, will begin dinner service on Tuesday, November 29th.
In partnership with Defined Hospitality (Suraya, Pizzeria Beddia, R&D Cocktail Bar, Condesa/El Techo), the new Kalaya features a large open kitchen, a full bar, and 145 seats inside the 5,500 square-foot space with architectural design by Stokes Architecture. The restaurant will be open seven days a week, with dinner offered between 5 and 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, with service extended until 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Defined Hospitality includes partners Greg Root, Al Lucas, and Nick Kennedy.
The interior was designed by Katherine Lundberg, owner of Briquette Studio, a creative force behind Defined Hospitality’s restaurants. The design reflects post-modern influences with a subtle nod to the colonial architectural motifs of Southeast Asia. Custom metal and glass doors breathe new life into the façade, providing all those who enter a reason to look up. The vaulted wood ceiling is deliberately interrupted by a grand skylight, sunning the focal point to a trio of 14-foot Adonidia Palms. Hand-selected and imported from Thailand are a pair of large-scale abstract paintings by female artist, Be Chanida. The backdrop to the dining room features louvers, which frame the lively activity of the stately and bustling open kitchen. The open-concept dining room allows guests to experience a shared atmosphere created between all four walls in the heart of Fishtown.
“This restaurant was built on the vision that the partners and I created together, and it was brought to life beautifully by Katherine Lundberg,” said Suntaranon in a statement. “So much time and hard work went into making this version of Kalaya as perfect as can be, and I am so incredibly grateful for each and every person who made this dream a reality. We are ready and excited for this new chapter.”
The menu will be an expanded version of what Suntaranon offered at the original Kalaya, in addition to several dishes brought back from a recent culinary inspiration visit to Thailand. The sizable, state-of-the-art kitchen features a large grill, which will allow Suntaranon and her team the ability to prepare many dishes previously impossible to create at the original location. Additionally, every one of Kalaya’s curries and spice blends are made in-house.
“We had limited space in our first kitchen, and the new Kalaya will allow us to create so many more dishes that we’ve been wanting to introduce to Philadelphia,” said Suntaranon. “We’ve been preparing this menu for the past year, and it will always be evolving, ever-changing, and authentic.”
The dessert program was created by James Matty, the Defined Hospitality pastry chef whose creations are featured at Suraya and Condesa. Included on the dessert menu are durian sticky rice, as well as three different varieties of shaved ice, which include various syrups, textures, fresh fruits, and fresh herbs.
Unlike the previous location, the new Kalaya will feature a full bar program, with 14 seats available at the bar for both hand-crafted cocktails and full menu dining. The cocktail list is made up of names of female characters in Thai folklore and popular culture, and was created by Aaron Deary and the team from R&D Cocktail Bar. Ingredients and flavors used in the kitchen will be carried over into variations of classic cocktails. The wine list will feature mostly natural wines that are organic, biodynamic, and sustainable, with 10 wines by the glass, and 22 total including bottles. There are four beers on draft, and four beers available by the bottle. Dessert cocktails, zero-proof cocktails, and Thai sodas will also be available. Additionally, Kalaya will offer their version of “ya dong” — a variation of a street shot found in Bangkok, crafted into a cocktail with various herbs, spices, and funky flavors that are both fun and approachable. There will also be a beer slushie, a traditional beverage popular throughout Thailand’s nightlife.
“We at Defined Hospitality are honored and thrilled to partner with Nok, who is a brilliant chef and visionary,” said Root. “Nick Kennedy and our culinary team have been working closely with Nok to create this kitchen. We are proud to have joined forces to bring this special restaurant to our city.”