Delray Beach’s Eathai offers intrigue and surprises with menu of seldom-seen Thai dishes

Neon sign behind Eathai’s bar.

Located next to a pancake house on Federal Highway, this Thai eatery offers adventurous diners an opportunity to sample cuisine rarely found elsewhere in a modern setting.

By Alan J. Wax

Hidden in a small strip center next to the Original House of Pancakes on Federal Highway, just south of Linton Boulevard, Eathai differs from most Thai eateries in Delray Beach and its environs.

The differences are in both the ambiance and the menu.

Eathai’s dining room.

Entering this modern space decked out in what appears to be distressed wood walls, the first thing you’ll notice is the absence of brass elephants and other brass ornamentation often found in Thai restaurants. A few pictures decorate the walls. The lighting is from bare-bulb pendants hanging from the corrugated metal-tile ceiling; it can be dim, even in broad daylight. There’s an orange neon Eathai sign lit up behind the fully stocked bar. A dozen small tables ring the dining room and four large, communal wooden tables with picnic-style benches fill the rest of the floor.

The differences don’t end there; the menu offers both intrigue and surprises. And, importantly, no sushi (though Thai ceviche is offered).

The intrigue: You would expect to find curries, noodles, soups, and fried rice on the menu. Yet Eathai has them, but it offers it own spin as well as dishes from the Thai repertoire that I’ve never before seen. You’ll be surprised, pleasantly, by some dishes and taken aback by others.

 Chef Sopanut Sopochana.

Behind Eathai is chef-owner, Sopanut Sopochana, who at the age of 14 moved from Bangkok to New York, according to the restaurant’s web site. Living in the Bronx without any knowledge of English or a helping hand to guide him wasn’t a challenge. His dream was to not work for others but himself. He rose from dishwasher to general manager for the renowned Spice Group in New York City, managing several restaurants. At the age of 28 in 2008, Chef So, as he’s become known, opened his first restaurant near NYU in downtown Manhattan. Others soon followed. In 2015, he moved to South Florida, where he worked as a server at Thai Spice in Fort Lauderdale to learn about the South Florida market, and in May 2016, he opened Eathai.

At Eathai, Chef So is innovating, melding traditional Thai flavors – lemongrass, lime, cilantro and fish sauce – with Americanized tastes.

At lunchtime (when the dining crowd is small), diners are offered a complimentary salad with a deliciously tart dressing, or soup. On one occasion I was served a Thai twist on egg drop soup, tofu radish soup on another, and a mildly flavored vegetable soup on yet another time.  All arrived at tepid temperatures. Perhaps that’s how they’re meant to be served.

Horse Shoe appetizer.

Among the starters that I tried, was the Horse Shoe ($10), a centuries-old Thai snack of sweet tangerine slices topped with caramelized peanut, radish, and coconut.  Tasty, but it struck me as more of a dessert than an appetizer.

Thai Chicken French Toast ($7) was another app that intrigued me. I had it was a dish from Chef So’s childhood. Four 2-inch squares of fried, but greaseless, bread embedded with ground chicken arrived on a plate with a pungent onion-cucumber relish.  The toasts were bland, but did that relish liven things up!

Stuffed enoki mushroom.

Thai Chicken French toast.

Fried Enoki Mushroom ($7) was less successful. A bundle of the slender mushrooms, stuffed with marinated chicken, and lightly breaded, was served with a sweet peanut chili sauce that gave some life to what to me seemed a stringy, spongy creation.

Onto the mains.

Oxtail soup.

Poached filet of flounder.

Crispy duck breast in lychee currie sauce.

On one occasion, I could not resist ordering the Spicy Oxtail Soup ($18). My server that day, Chef So’s son, Shane, told me it ” his mouth dance.” It’s not a dish for everyone. This Thai Muslim specialty contains chunks of oxtail, cherry tomatoes, potato slices and white onions, all filling a metal tureen of lime juice and red chil-flaked-laced beef broth spiced with black pepper, cilantro root, cinnamon, and star anise. It was a shock to the palate. The white rice (or brown) on the side is a necessity to tame the flavors that tingle on your tongue. And, it wasn’t easy getting that meat off the bones. In one case, a piece flew off my plate onto the floor.

Poached Filet of Flounder ($12) was kinder to my palate. It consisted of delicate, bite-sized pieces of white fish that were gently sauteed, and then topped with red onions, cilantro, chopped scallions, and baby spinach. The by-now ubiquitous chili lime sauce was on the side.

Pad Thai Chicken ($13), ordered by a friend, arrived steaming but the noodles seemed dry to him, and the sauce, ordered not spicy, came across as sweet.

My favorite offering was Crispy Duck Breast with Lychee Curry Sauce ($18) though it was a bit stingy on the protein. Five tender slices of duck breast arrived in a bowl atop a tangy, but mild red curry, cherry tomatoes, green and red pepper, basil, and, of course, citrusy lychees, which provided a sweet counterpoint to the rest of the dish.

Mango-sticky rice ice cream rolls.

Desserts, often an afterthought in Thai restaurants, provide an exclamation point to the Eathai experience. The house specialty is rolled ice cream, made with lots of clanking behind the bar. I enjoyed a frozen, creamy spin on a traditional dessert, mango and sticky rice ($8),. It arrived in a paper cup filled with rolls of vanilla ice cream, a scoop of warm coconut sticky rice, and a topping of diced mango bits in coconut sauce, which combined to provide a sweet finish with varied textures.  A winner in my book.

Eathai isn’t for everyone, but adventurous eaters will appreciate the friendly attentive service and the unusual, oft-flavorful dishes.


1832 S. Federal Highway, Delray Beach, FL 33483



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