With a 12-foot bronze temple-styled Buddha framed by its sweeping metal staircase, Wallingford's newest Thai restaurant offers more than a few quick noodle dishes. May Restaurant and Lounge serves customers a taste of Thailand itself.
"It's like transporting you to a part of Thailand," said May chef Prasopchok Trakulphat. "When you come in you can't really see concrete buildings. You only see the wood from original Thai houses, and you're eating authentic food."
Describing a design and architecture as bold as its food, James Weimann, one of the three owners of May, came up with the restaurant's concept after buying a nearly 100-year-old Craftsman house in Wallingford that reminded him of Asian homes he'd seen elsewhere.
"It used to be an old house that I bought, and I started working on it," Weimann said. "It started looking to me like it had what I would call 'Asian design lines.'"
After contacting old friends May Chaleow and Auzie Oxford, the three decided to open a restaurant that would specialize in presenting a traditional Thai experience.
With Weimann responsible for the building's overall design and Cha-leow serving as the authority on Thai culture, the trio traveled to Thailand, importing the majority of the build-ing's materials and decor.
"We wanted to - authentically as possible - recreate Thailand in Seattle," Weimann said.
With so many tables, so much bar furniture and even building materials from a 150-year old Thai house, the restaurant looks more like a Buddhist temple or Thai home than a hot- spot for Pad Thai.
Even the building's second-story ceiling is a replica of a Northern Thailand temple ceiling, designed by Mark Bennett.
A different kind of Thai experience
Weimann says he chose the Wallingford location because he has lived in the area for years.
Thai restaurants already line Wallingford's North 45th Street, but Trakulphat is confident his offers a different kind of dining experience.
Offering a style of food that Weimann describes as the way "wealthy [Thai] would eat," May's menu items include fresh ingredients and authentic preparation techniques, with homemade curries and sauces.
Serving a select menu of 10 to 20 dishes at a time, May offers a Thai cuisine that is not "Americanized," said Trakulphat, a Thai native and recent graduate of Seattle Central Community College's culinary program.
"I hate to say that we are high-end, but a lot of people ask, 'What were you thinking opening another Thai restaurant on North 45th Street in Wallingford?'" Trakulphat said. "But I think we are not [just] another Thai restaurant; we are different."
A string of successful ventures
Weimann is also the owner of The Ballroom in Fremont along with Auzie Oxford and Dave Brownell.
The mastermind behind several popular Seattle restaurants, Wei-mann first opened the Triangle Pub in Fremont, and then the El Camino and Peso's in Queen Anne.
Each of these restaurants was sold to investors who made offers that couldn't be refused.
Now, in his fifth venture, Wei-mann attributes his success to the people he has hired and worked with.
"Bartenders need to be efficient but nice and sincerely need to be there, and in the kitchen, you need people who want to keep learning, but who are in line [with] keeping food costs down," Weimann said.[[In-content Ad]]