At the end of June, Eater reported that Mark and Picha Pinkaow, owners of Thai Curry Simple, the much-loved weekday lunch spot in the International District, would open a shaved ice dessert spot in the University District this summer. Now the space is built out, the ice machines tested, the recipes perfected, and Wann Yen is ready to go this coming weekend.
Wann Yen is a Thai term that doesn't have an exact translation, but one interpretation of the phrase is "slow life." Another is "sweet and cool."
"Think of shaved ice like the Good Humor truck," says Mark. "But even in Thailand, it's getting harder to find this traditional treat." The distinguishing characteristic of a Wann Yen dessert is lightly sweetened fresh fruit rather than gooey syrup.
In any event, this is Thai shaved ice, fruit on the bottom, ice on top. There's a similar Hawaiian version with fruit on top that's called "shave ice." All Wann Yen's shaved ice flavors will be priced at $4.57 so that the total including tax is an even five-spot.
The distinguishing characteristic of a Wann Yen dessert is lightly sweetened fresh fruit rather than gooey syrup.
Picha, who created the menu, has six flavor combinations to start, from a sweet coconut milk with ruby water chestnuts and jack fruit, to a mixture of tropical fruits with red date, toddy palm seed, sweet yam, and cendol topped with sweet coconut milk. (Truth be told, cendol looks like green worms, but is oh so tasty. Cendol is also called "cendol pandan" and makes a green dough used for a sweet "pasta" as well as cake.) There will also be a handful of smaller jellied desserts made from agar-agar, along with Thai iced coffee, brewed tea, and lemonade.
The 900-square-foot space (7 tables, seating for 30), in the heart of the U District at 1313 NE 43rd St sits across from a Haagen Dazs outlet. Two Lebanese restaurants are also on the street, which is one block from the University of Washington campus.
Grand opening is 3 p.m. this Saturday, August 15. Wann Yen will be open seven days a week from early afternoon to mid-evening. A staff of four will serve guests, and Picha intends to be on hand as much as possible.