Born and raised in Phang Nga, a small province in southern Thailand (about an hour from Phuket), Sawangphol started working in her family's restaurant at age 13, learning about techniques and spices as well as recipes from her great grandmother, eventually becoming the restaurant's chef.After studying hospitality, she moved to the U.S. She worked in California, Ohio, and Illinois before moving to NYC to open MayRee, her own restaurant, showcasing the Southern Thai dishes she grew up with.
Sawangphol uses a bounty of Thai herbs and unique ingredients like garcinia cambogia (a tropical fruit native to Southeast Asia, aka Malabar tamarind), along with turmeric, coconut, chilies, and more.
The restaurant's name comes from a Thai folklore story called the Twelve Sisters — MayRee is one of the sisters. Despite the misfortunes that befall her in the story, she still manages to keep a cheerful disposition and, as a result in Thai culture, she symbolizes celebration and social gathering.
MayRee is open for lunch during the week from noon to 4 p.m., with dinner 5-11 p.m. (11:30 p.m. close on Friday and Saturday). There's a weekend brunch starting at 11 a.m. Phone: (929) 989-6213.