First Look: Sway in Austin

[Photographs: Melody Fury]

A Thai restaurant was not what Austinites expected when La Condesa's Rene Ortiz and Jesse Herman announced their latest project. After all, La Condesa is known for its modern Mexican fare and cocktails. But in a city where authentic Asian restaurants are few to be found, a legitimate Thai spot could really draw a crowd.

The restaurant opened last week with a bold menu drawing from Chinese, Malaysian, Indonesian, and Vietnamese influences. Herman describes it as "modern, and more authentically Thai...with items that can't be described as anything but our food." Their housemade crawfish XO sauce would be an example of such one-of-a-kind flavor.

Whole Market Fish (market price)

Much like the atmosphere, the menu is fun and energetic. Have a cold beer ready because the chefs are not taming the spice level down here. From the fiery wok to the charcoal grills, Sway adds intense heat to meats and vegetables. The shellfish and fish, which are sourced from the Gulf, are abundant too.

Owners Herman and Ortiz both lived in Sydney where Thai food is wildly popular, and they both fell hard for the complex flavors and unapologetic heat. When Ortiz recreated the tamarind glazed crispy pork hock recipe from chef David Thompson, the first chef to ever receive a Michelin star for his Thai restaurant in Bangkok, Herman knew they were onto something big. Ever since that pork hock night two years ago, the team has been developing Sway's concept.

The warmly lit space is furnished with large communal tables with meal-sharing in mind. The moo sway, a whole slow roasted Thai-style pork shoulder with all the fixings, is ideal for sharing, as is the whole market fish, which you can order steamed or fried.

Pastry chef Laura Sawicki kept the distinctly Southeast Asian flavors in mind when creating the dessert menu. She uses ingredients like black sesame, toasted rice, and Thai iced tea in her ice creams and panna cotta.

See more of Sway's dishes in the slideshow >>