WAS-AAH-BI? Top north county chefs plan space where Thai meets sushi

Hear that sizzle in north county? That’s the sound of hot flavor notes popping, of woks searing, of something truly delicious coming together.

That’s because two of Palm Beach County’s powerhouse Asian chefs are joining forces in a new restaurant venture. Chefs Charlie Soo (of Talay Thai, Palm Beach Gardens) and Roy Villacrusis (of Mark’s Place and Kubo fame) are working on a joint sushi/Thai concept to open this summer in Jupiter.

Soo is opening the 30-seat eatery he calls Aah Loi Thai & Sushi at the Winn Dixie plaza on Military Trail and Frederick Small Road, in the space formerly occupied by Sushi King. Originally, he planned a small take-out spot serving Thai favorites and basic sushi, responding to requests from his loyal customers who live north of Palm Beach Gardens.

But after he enlisted good friend Villacrusis, the project took on more ambitious dimensions. (Translation: it brought about a complete overhaul of the original sushi bar space.)

Villacrusis, whose artistic sushi creations and unique flavor combinations have earned him local acclaim, says he will focus mainly on sushi, but also pay homage to the Thai notes Soo has popularized at his bustling restaurant, located just outside PGA National.

“When I heard Roy was available, I approached him with the idea. We get along great, and I want people to see his. He’s so talented. He stepped away from sushi for a bit, but he’s going to be the best guy out here. And he’s a showman, too,” says Soo, who plans to offer Thai food only for take-out at the new place.

The chefs say their differing strengths make them a good team. Soo is the businessman with the background in finance. Villacrusis is the artist.

“His strong points are my weak points,” says the Filipino-born Villacrusis, who is based in Palm Beach Gardens. “I think we have something very unique to offer the area.”

As for the name, it’s a play on the Thai word for “delicious.”

Soo points out, only half-jokingly, that he added that extra A to the name to maximize visibility on alphabetical search lists.

Talay Thai: 7100 Fairway Drive, Palm Beach Gardens; 561-691-5662; reservations recommended.

Aah Loi: scheduled to open in late June.

Roy Villacrusis: RoyVillacrusis.com

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