Another shuttered space along the Newark Avenue Pedestrian Plaza is slated to spring to life in the coming months as a Manhattan restaurant that has been in business for over 25 years will be expanding into the Garden State.
A ground floor storefront at 137 Newark Avenue has been dark since late 2019 when Thai eatery Sawadee closed up shop after a decade serving the community. The move was part of a string of closings along the pedestrian-only portion of the road that pre-dated the coronavirus pandemic.
With a $6.7 million renovation of the plaza area slated to begin soon, the Historic Downtown Special Improvement District has announced that a restaurant called Wondee Siam will be opening at 137 Newark Avenue. The business was established in 1996 on 9th Avenue in Hell’s Kitchen, with several expansions around Manhattan in the years since.
Wondee Siam is owned by Phimploy Likitsansook, who famously had two menus when the restaurant initially opened. To protect the palates of those uninitiated with the fire found in authentic Thai dishes, she served a “secret” menu written only in Thai that featured specialties rarely found in Manhattan at the time.
Likitsansook has since opened another spot called Paet Rio in the Elmhurst neighborhood of Queens, a move that garnered her positive press from the New York Times in 2014. After crossing the East River with success, she has turned her sights on conquering the Hudson and reviews from Yelp and The Infatuation indicate that Jersey City is in for a treat.
Menu highlights at Wondee Siam include Tom Ka, a traditional Thai coconut milk soup with mushrooms, scallions, and kaffir lime leaves. Even the restaurant’s salads have a bit of a kick and include a dish dubbed Yum Goon Chiang that consists of Thai sausage mixed with cucumber, tomatoes, red onions, scallions, lime juice, and chilis.
Unique dishes that dot the restaurant’s appetizer menu include a Kraree Puff, a French puff pastry that is made with ground chicken, sweet potatoes, onion, curry powder, and white pepper. Several dumpling varieties are highlighted by a steamed Kanom Jeeb that blends minced pork, chicken, shrimp, garlic, cilantro, and white pepper.
Entrées at Wondee Siam include a Tod Mun Pla Fish Cake, or a deep-fried minced kingfish beaten with red curry paste. Another seafood standout is the Ta Lay Thai, which includes sautéed shrimp, squid, scallops, and mussels mixed with basil, garlic, mushrooms, galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, chili paste, and bell peppers.
The modestly priced restaurant features lunch specials at their New York locations starting at just $6.95, a price almost unheard of in Manhattan. All Wondee Siam’s locations are BYOB affairs and it looks like the Jersey City experience will follow suit, as a liquor license once associated with 137 Newark Avenue has been sold to a third party.
Wondee Siam has not yet announced any timeline for opening their Jersey City location, but renovations have already commenced at their future home.