Midtown West

The Pure Thai Cookhouse Survival Guide

Pure Thai RatchaburiI started this blog in 2012, about 2 years after Pure Thai Shophouse opened on 9th ave.  Yes, it was called Shophouse back then, until two lawyers from Chipotle walked inside demanding a name change.  Little Pure Thai was apparently a threat to Chipotle’s brand spanking new Asian Kitchen Shophouse brand.  And what do you know, the threat was apparently real.  Long time readers of this blog know the story.  The initial idea was to create a sense of a Thai street Shophouse-like environment inside.  The place is after-all “if you sneeze you may miss it” tiny, cramped, slightly uncomfortable, and sometimes even smells a little.  My type of place.  But if not your type, this post may help.

It feels like Pure has been open a while longer considering how many times I’ve been there (somewhere between 50-100).  I used to go there with co-workers whenever I felt like it, until it got so popular that we would need to leave the office at 11:45, 15 minutes before opening.  We would sometimes even have practice drills and those who’d fail would be on a three month lunch probation.  Over the years, I’ve seen it become a lot more popular with tourists.  When I get emails from visitors (tour inquiries, hate mail, marriage proposals, etc), Pure is mentioned more than any other place.  But not only I’m glad its successful, I couldnt keep it a secret if I wanted to.  In the great sea of 9th ave Thai, there’s really nothing like it.  And while establishments next door are adjusting to mass tourism with increased prices and smaller portions, Pure continues to do it the only way they know how

Pure Thai Pork

Pure Thai Pork

There’s a reason why Pure has been on the Hell’s Kitchen Survival Guide from day one.  If you are simply after rainbow colored curries, and the basic Pad, Pure may not be the right place.  But as I will mention again soon, if there’s a curry dish on that board in the back, it instantly becomes the best curry on 9th.  Pure’s specialty is noodles, soups and old family, and regional recipes from all over Thailand.  Here’s a little noob guide to help you take advantage of this little gem

When to come:  As I mentioned this place has gotten very popular over the years.  If I’m solo I come whenever I want.  Two people can try as well with a solid backup option in mind (Danji).  They will call you when your table is ready if theres a long wait (plenty of bars on 9th).  But most convenient time is right when they open (noon), or 2:30 to 4:30 pm

What to expect:  You can look at the pictures to get a sense of the type of space.  Some of the friendliest people you will ever meet in NYC.  The staff functions like a family, some of which have been there for a while.  Sometimes they close for a few days for a retreat in a house they own upstate NY.  While I never felt totally uncomfortable there, this is as far as it gets from Michelin comfort.  You may sit on tiny stools, sharing a tiny table, staring at your partner or an old Thai action movie poster.  And then there’s the 80’s Thai disco to complete the moodPure Thai

What to order:  The reason for this post….

Green Papaya Salad – This is a classic Thai dish that you can get everywhere including all over 9th ave.  But Pure’s version is… well, pure, loaded with addictive heat and dried shrimp.  If you never had a Papaya Salad before, you came to the right place.

Roasted Baby Back Ribs – These ribs wont win the coveted Crazy Roscoe BBQ championship any time soon (Ok, I totally made that up), but this is finger licking magic, loaded with bean paste, oyster sauce, sesame, sitting on top of the luckiest lettuce on the planetPure Thai Ribs

Jungle Curry Fried Rice With Chicken – Some of the best simple looking fried rice dishes you’ll find in the city.  Fragrant, and spicy (notice a trend?  It ends soon).  Serves as a great side dish or main.

Ratchaburi Crab & Pork Dry Noodles – This is the Oprah Winfrey of the Pure dishes.  A dish liked by everyone.  A specialty of Ratchaburi region, where one of the owners (wife) hails from.  Its very mild and so a safe dish for the heat challenged, but satisfying enough for those seeking bolder flavors.  Scoop up the broth to the top and mix this baby well.

Pure Thai Ratchaburi

Wok Curry Paste With Pork (second from top)- More delicious heat.  Loaded with the best of Thai… string beans, Thai eggplant, bamboo shoots, green peppercorn, basil, and kaffir lime curry sauce.  One of my favorite Wok dishes here, along with the Chili Turmeric With Beef, and Roasted Chili With Shrimp

Sukhothai Pork Noodles Soup – One of my favorite soups in Hell’s Kitchen.  It got the depth, the aroma and all kinds of pork action.  Three different textures of pork in fact including craklings.Pure Thai Sukhothai

Special – When you come in, treasure awaits on the board in the back.  The mains are more exciting.  Often beef or shrimp sauteed with some kind of spicy paste, market fresh veggies, Jasmine rice, and a fried egg.  And as I mentioned before, if its curry, it instantly becomes the best curry on 9th.

Mango or Pumpkin Sticky Rice – Possibly the most important tip here since you can easily miss it.  Its the lone dessert, always on the board as a special.  Sometimes its Mango, Pumpkin and sometimes both.  Served on top of sticky rice, with sesame and coconut milk on banana leaf.  Its warm, with just enough sweetness, and simply heavenly.

Thai Iced Tea – Goes without saying.  This is a good one

Pure Thai Pumpkin

Pure Thai Cookhouse - Curry Special

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Best Ramen Dishes in Hell’s Kitchen

Ivan Ramen - Chicken PaitanYes, I know, I’m about 24 hours late on this.  Its beginning to feel a lot like spring here compared to what we experienced the previous 4 days.  Today I can finally wear just enough layers and headgear to be recognizable and to comfortably go to the bathroom during tours.  And I dont need to inspect the mummies I’m with every 30 minutes to make sure these are the people I’m touring with

Although during this cold spell I’ve been craving mostly Thai and Vietnamese soups, Ramen is usually the more common medicine.  So for the latest issue of W42st, that colorful magazine you see all over Hell’s Kitchen, I wrote about my favorite Ramen dishes in a neighborhood that is perhaps most Ramen heavy in NYC today.  Remember the four pillars of Hell’s Kitchen:  Ramen, Mexican, Thai and Gay bars.  Come to think of it, Gay bars is the only one I didnt write about.  I’m on it.

Chicken Paitan at Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop (top)- While the average folk go for the classic dishes that made Ivan famous, savvy W42st readers should opt for the latest and greatest.  The richness and deliciousness of a Tonkotsu without the heaviness.

Yuzu-Kosho Ramen at Mentoku – Solid Ramen with no wait in Hell’s Kitchen is like finding a parking spot within 30 minutes.  Love the way they cut that Chasu so thin, and that spicy, zesty Yuzu paste carries some serious depth.

Spicy Ramen at Totto (bottom)- Its that complex spicy sesame oil that transforms this thing into an umami of flavors.  On a really cold day, it doesnt get much better than this.  Ok, maybe Turks and Caicos.

Akamaru Modern at Ippudo – Its a good time to catch up with your virtual friends while waiting for your table.  Two hours later you can return the favor by posting this sumptuousness.

Tonkatsu with Spicy Black Garlic Sauce at Hide-Chan Ramen – If you like it ultra rich and porky, it doesn’t get much richer than this. Get the fried chicken too while you’re at it.

totto-spicy-ramen

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Best Thai Dishes in Hell

Pure Thai RatchaburiIn East Village, during my tour we discuss the 4 pillars or principles of the Temperance movement when we visit a Temperance fountain: Temperance, Faith, Hope, and Charity.  While in Hell’s Kitchen we discuss the 4 pillars of Hell’s Kitchen: Thai, Mexican, Ramen, and Gay Bars.  Temperance supporters would obviously disapprove of this neighborhood today.  Until they taste any of the items below that is.

My 5 favorite Thai dishes that appear in the latest W42st, come from 3 places, the only Thai I go to these days in Hell’s Kitchen.  (There must be around 30 in the area).  Rule of thumb for Thai in HK and anywhere pretty much, the dingier the place, the better the food.  If you see chandeliers, run.  If it smells a little, and you see a menu that looks like hasnt changed in 15 years with items crossed out with a pen, stay.

Pick up your free copy of W42st anywhere in Hell

Ratchaburi Crab & Pork Dry Noodles at Pure Thai Cookhouse – Its all in the name. Mix in the broth from the bottom of the bowl and you get magic. A good introduction to the outrageous 9th avenue Thai scene for the rookies

Oxtail Soup at Pam Real Thai – One of my favorite winter dishes. Chunks of tender, juicy Oxtail in a beautiful Vinegary broth that packs a punch (heat!). Its BYOB! Bring Your Own Bounty.Pam Real Oxtail Soup

Duck Larb at Larb Ubol – When in Larb, you have to eat, well, Larb. An Isan specialty of liberally seasoned minced meat with chili, lime and other addictive goodies served in room temperature. I’m partial to the ducky

Larb Ubol larb

Seafood Kee Mao at Pam Real Thai – And the Dandruff award goes to… Over the years I tried this guilty pleasure all over Hell’s Kitchen. This is head and shoulders above everyone else.

Pumpkin Custard at Pure Thai Cookhouse – When a place has only one dessert, well, you have no choice. Because its only one. A not too sweet custard with coconut sticky rice inside a banana leaf is pure diviness.

Pure Thai Pumpkin

 

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Best Tacos in Hell

Tacuba TacosTaco Wednesday (or is it Tuesday), taco month, national taco day.  I lose track sometimes, and I never discriminate.  I once even had an Al Pastor on a Thursday, a designated personal soup day.  I did not enjoy it.  But is there a governing body that registers all these national days? Are all 365 days already taken, or can things overlap. For example, can we add a National Shakshuka day on a day that just happens to be a National Chihuahua day.  Personally I dont see why Shakshukas and Chihuahuas cant be combined, but I can see the need for a limit of some sort as eventually the list will become too tedious to maintain its usefulness.  Do Chihuahua even eat Shakshuka? I bet Sabra Chihuahuas do.

Even though this list includes some of my usual suspects, I had to work a little hard to find the 5th for the latest W42st compilation.  After revisiting some old faves, and trying some new popular places, I suddenly found myself in my longest streak of taco mediocrity.  In a neighborhood with a largish Pueblan community like Hell’s Kitchen with tacos in every corner, you start to lose hope in humanity at some point.  But with some determination, we prevailed at the end.  Its “Never Lose Hope Friday” after all.

You can pick up your free copy of W42st anywhere in Hell’s Kitchen.  The inserts are now gone, and the KTCHLST is now embedded inside the magazine

Click here for prior lists

Shrimp at Otto’s Tacos – Small but with a lot of Chutzpah. Smartly seasoned with Serrano cream and onions. The shrimp tacos to beat in the entire city me claims

Carnitas at Taqueria Diana – As many things in life, it gets juicier as it gets older. Slowly cooked porkiness, almost like they do in Mission, SF

Lengua at Tehuitzingo, – I brought many visitors for these tender delicacies that are sort of life changing. Some turned into big fans, some religious, and some in therapy

Garbanzo Y Hongos at Choza – As for veggie tacos this little guy is tough to beat. Mushroom and Chickpeas with “Chana Masala” like Salsa Negra.

Carnitas at Tacuba – This is the entree (below), not the “tacos”. You make your own tacos with wonderfully greasy suckling pig and Chicharron. CHICHARRON!

Tacuba Carnitas

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Best Pizza in Hell (Revisited)

Its the first and last pizza week here on EWZ, and that time of the month – W42nd st monthly launch.  And by pure coincidence or not, this month issue lists the best pizza in Hell’s Kitchen.  Long time readers will notice one major drop/add on the list.  Although the major drop (John’s) is still fairly popular with visitors, and the addition is pretty far out there.  So pick up a free copy of the W42st, to check out what this dysfunctional family is up to these days.

Pizza List

Prior lists

 

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Five Hellish Quickies

IvanThis month on Hell’s Kitchen’s unofficial official magazine W42st, the theme is… ok, I dont really remember.  I’m pretty sure the theme is not quickies, but sounds like it should be one of these days.  I try, but sometimes I just cant match the Eatlists with the theme.  If for example the theme is The Kardashians (it could happen), I would have a hard time coming up with related recommendations, other than maybe Casellula, home of the pig’s ass sandwich.

The list this time is snacks.  And the good news this month is that I dont have to copy and paste the Eatlist anymore.  You can just read them here.  Or pick up a copy at your favorite Hell’s Kitchen barber, restaurant, and tarot card dealer.

And you can see the rest of the Eatlists here.  Just ignore the pussy…

https://www.w42st.com/search?q=ziggy&term=ziggy

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Hell’s Kitchen – Dining With the Family

There was a time when Hell’s Kitchen was just about the last area in North America you would take your family out to dinner.  There was a time, not too long ago, when I would drive with friends just to see the prostitute action along 10th and 11th.  We would not even roll down the windows, let alone get out of the car in this neighborhood.  Of course I’m talking about when I was a teenager, not in my mid 40’s.  Hell’s Kitchen was a rough neighborhood.

But boy is it different today.  Not only its safe to dine out with your family at all hours, the options out there are endless.  In this month’s W42st magazine you see all over the neighborhood, the theme is family.  In the insert you will find these 5 places I would take (and took) my family in Hell’s Kitchen.  Notice there’s no Trip Advisor family darling Carmines on the list.  Works for some families.  Not so much for mine.  “Family style” sharing is something you can do easily with any of these places

Pio Pio – The sprawling high ceiling basement space of this Peruvian is perfect for families of all sizes.  The usual Peruvian suspects like the Chicken and Ceviche are spot on.

The Marshal – Small space with a sound family friendly menu.  Whether its Frittata and Mac and Cheese for brunch, or Meatloaf, Chicken, and the best bread and butter in town for dinner

Mercato – Who says family style means large plates of chicken and eggplant Parm.  A pasta feast at Mercato is a lot more interesting for Hell’s Kitchen kids

Ippudo – Kids love the atmosphere, energy, and all that yelling…”Welcome in”, “thank you”, and presumably “aim well” when going to the bathroom

Blue Ribbon Sushi Columbus – This pick may raise a few eyebrows, until you see how shareable some of the hits are like the fried chicken, oxtail fried rice, and sauteed squid.

 

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Hell’s Kitchen Summer Update

Yonekichi

Winter is coming!  July 16th to be exact.  That means time to load up on seafood, pea soups, and Japanese street snacks.  The first update in almost a year means it was quite the busy year.  I cleaned up a bit and removed some places that closed like Mooncake foods, but got a few doozies to replace it in the health department.  Big Mazal Tov to the new members…

Gloria – This neighborhood pescatarian was a no-brainer.

Yonekichi – Light and delicious Japanese Rice Burgers with great combo specials to boot

Fresh From Hell – Ingredient focused healtheria with sinful stuff like sandwiches featuring Sullivan bread.

PS.  As of this writing, Sullivan is closed for renovations.  A few more weeks they tell me

The complete Hell’s Kitchen Survival Guide

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Hell’s Kitchen – Eating Outdoors

IMG_6257A new month means a new W42st edition floating all over Hell’s Kitchen.  I love doing the Hell’s Kitchen tours on launch day and seeing them everywhere.  The design and size of those babies brightens galleries, restaurants, and even those $5 fortune tellers.  This month’s theme is outdoors, and for only $5 you can probably find out next month’s exciting theme.  So pick up a copy and check out the rest of the issue including these outdoor venue picks, in color this time

Gotham West Market – Brilliantly designed, with outside bar counters and tables on both sides.  Even the occasional Lincoln Tunnel traffic is respectful

Il Baretto – Well crafted sandwiches and salads on the quiet side of the kitchen (ok, quieter).  Facing HK’s biggest park.

The Marshal – Try not to sneeze when you pass by this Farm to Sidewalk, or you may miss it.  Its like the speakeasy of outdoor dining

Otto’s Tacos – Get the Shrimp tacos with a side of Masa fries and watch the world go by.  And by world I mean tourists.

The Press Lounge – At the end of the day, this is the place to soak it all in.  Hooray for zoning laws!IMG_6256

 

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Gloria, I Think We Got Your Number

Gloria Shrimp53rd street in Hell’s Kitchen is a street I’m well familiar with.  I used to walk by Kiran, an Indian restaurant formerly at the same space as Gloria like a Hassid in East Village.  Face covered so the super nice owner wouldnt see me walking by.  I didnt want to break his heart after years of loyalty while I was cheating with another Indian on 9th.  After Kiran it was another love hate relationship, CoBa 53.  They opened, they closed (thanks Health Dept, and Obama!), they reopened but could never find their groove.  The biggest, weirdest gripe I had with them was that this was the one place where tablecloths just seemed out of place.

So when I heard Pescatarian Gloria opening in that spot, I needed to see it and taste it to believe it.  Instead of the usual Walk of Shame or avoiding that corner of 53rd entirely, I actually coudnt wait to see what they’ve done with the space.  Nifty light fixtures replaced with niftier ones, and the tablecloths are GONE.  The irony is that after all the space anticipation I forgot to take a picture of it.  Multiple shots of every dish (Our neighbors who flat out stole our corn bread thought we are some sick food paparazzi) but nothing of the space.  Gloria Octopus

I often start posts like this one with a Jambalaya of irrelevant junk, before giving a place the proper praise it deserves.  So before I lose any more reader, I can honestly say that this was one of those meals.  A solid 3 star!  The most refreshing thing to open in Hell’s Kitchen since The Marshal introduced us to American food (we have every Thai and Mexican imaginable, but good luck finding good ribs).  Some call Gloria a mini Contra as thats the place most associated with it (GM formerly with Contra).  But its more like a mini Le Bernardin.

Corn Bread – Nothing wrong with this bread course.  Except for the fact that we got it fairly late in the game after they initially delivered ours to the next table.

Black Bass Tartare – Pretty to look at, and one of the dishes to get.  Just wonderful flavor with the watermelon radish adding nice brightness.

Jonah Crab – Simple, yet outstanding!  The sweet as lobster crab mixed with strips of Kohlrabi (like a cross between Turnip and Daikon) and aided by a thin eggy Sabayon.  Ok, maybe not that simple.

Octopus – Yet more delicious awesomeness.  Perfectly cooked Octopus slices sitting on a bed of cabbage and black rice, delivering one heck of a nasty bite.  Its rare to see a place deliver so many probable menu staples so early in the game

Shrimp – If I may briefly pause the party for just a sec.  I think this is the only one I would skip next time, which is more of a testament to the rest of the lineup.  Nothing wrong with the shrimp and their Gulf funkiness, but nothing new flavor wise with the Cortez sauce.  And the Hominy made my brain expect Peruvian corn like texture but that snap was sorely missing.

Skate Wing – This is it.  The one, the Neo, the dish to get.  There’s nothing better in the seafood universal than Skate Wing simply seared with butter with a sprinkle of magic dust.

Panna Cotta – Meh!  But no point deductions here

Go!

Gloria
401 West 53rd (off 9th), Hell’s Kitchen
Rating: Three Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that.
Recommended Dishes: Skate Wing, Octopus, Tartare, Crab

Gloria TartareGloria Skate Wing

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