Posts Tagged With: Best Thai in NYC

Pam Real Thai – Severely Underrated, Still

Pam Real Thai Kha SoiIts a tale of two Thais.  Pure Thai Cookhouse, a jam packed frat party at pretty much any time of the day, sometimes even just outside.  Pam Real Thai, eerily quiet even at peak times sometimes.  Pure has a limited, concentrated menu for Thai standards, while Pam has a megillah that includes all the color of the rainbow curries and other American Thai.  Pure is where I bring visitors to experience the vibe and some regional specialties you wont find anywhere else, while Pam is terribly unattractive and uninviting.  So why do I keep going to Pam Real Thai.

Well, for starters, for some of the same reasons mentioned above.  I dont want to wrestle tourists and locals for a table.  As local as Pure is, the number of tourists that go there nowadays increased dramatically.  I usually dont have much of a problem if I go solo as I can often get a seat on the counter facing the wall, but that means I get a seat by the counter facing the wall!  At Pam not only I get a full table, but I sometimes get an entire section all too myself.  I can spread my legs in all directions including Sharon Stone style and no one will bat an eye.  I can listen to a conversation from across the room (95% theater industry related.  Boy do they like to curse).  I can hear a lung collapse and call 911 before its too late.  At Pure I get to listen to Mandarin or French by the folks sitting  pretty much on my lap, while the rest is white noise mixed in with the bizarre but catchy Thai disco. Pam Real Thai Pad Ped

And then there’s the food.  Pam Real’s food can be, well.. unreal sometimes.  I’ve written much about its Oxtail soup, which inspired me to finally bring my wife and kids for a meal the other day.  That pleasant vinegary heat, and all those chunks of Oxtail which increased over the years means you gotta work it, and may even sweat a little.  But its just so damn good.  Same goes for their outrageous Khao Soi, a Northern Thai curry-like noodle soup packed with chili oil and topped with deep-fried crispy egg noodles.  On a cold winter day especially, the soups work like magic, while in the summer they can cure summertime sadness (worth repeating because its true).

I wish I could keep score of the goodies and badies (food blogger lingo) I’ve had here over the years.   The big complaint from me is that its a very full menu. Steamed Thai Dumplings here can be as good as cheap Thai dumplings or Shumai can get.  Pad Ped (red curry paste, bamboo shoot, basil, and bell pepper) with your choice of meat or seafood is always solid.  I go for the seafood mix (shrimp and squid) when I feel particularly naughty.  Same goes for the rest of the sauteed lineup like Crispy Pork With Basil, Pad Prik Khing (curry paste, long bean and lime leaves).  For the most part these guys are not shy with their spices.  There used to be a time when my go-to Thai dish was Pad Kee Mao (drunken noodles) everywhere and Pam’s seafood Kee Mao was head and shoulders above everyone else in this Thai rich hood.  The generously crabby and excellent crab fried rice is another must get when you are sharing.Pam Real Thai Whole Fish

Crispy fried whole fish is one of those things I rarely order at Thai restaurants because its usually almost purposely overcooked, albeit liberally spiced and herbed.  Here you can have your Red Snapper or another fresh fish a number of ways.  I dont recall the name we tried, but it was smothered with a mild sweetish chili sauce, almost like a mild red Yemeni S’chug.  While we enjoyed it I dont know if I would spend another $28 on it again. The irony here is that I prefer “Thai Style Fish” at menus in non Thai restaurants, like Cull and Pistol.

Pam Real is a solid go.  Dont worry about looks and reviews (very full menu + delivery = reviews all over the place).  With Thai restaurants in Hell’s Kitchen especially looks can be deceiving.   If you want beautiful chandeliers, go to Room Service.  For good honest food, go to Pam.

Pam Real Thai
404 W 49th St (off 9th), Hell’s Kitchen
Rating: Two Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that.
Recommended Dishes: Oxtail Soup, Khao Soi, Thai dumplings, Pad Ped, Pad Prik Khing, Crispy Pork, Pad Kee Mao, Crab Fried RicePam Real Thai Crab Frid RicePam Real Oxtail Soup

Categories: Midtown West, New York City | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Uncle Boons – Finally!

Uncle BoonsShaky initial reviews, death in the family, Michelin, the dog ate my restaurant sheet – Just some of the reasons why I never made it to Uncle Boons before.  The bizarre Michelin star actually helped for about 5 minutes since I happened to see a tweet of the leak before the news broke out, and I was able to reserve a table immediately.  But on the day of the visit, I had to cancel, and reservations since then are virtually impossible.  Just like Pasquale Jones, and others who use Resy for roughly 20% of their tables, reservations are hard to get.  Solution:  Another gondola stroll throughout Little Italy while you wait for your table.

Ironic isnt it?  That Nolita, which means North of Little Italy, that famous food street, is arguably the best food neighborhood on the east coast.  Estella, Cherche Midi, Rubirosa, Pearl & Ash, Osteria Morini, Pasquale Jones, Balaboosta, Uncle Boons are just some examples of what you’ll find in this little tiny Foodie paradise.  Thats an impressive list of Z-Listers, and Z-list wannabes.  Taking that Little Italy, Chinaton stroll is one way to combat the NoLita popularity.  Though I fear, one day, one of these “Ciao” guys trying to lure me inside a Little Italy establishment will give me an offer I cant refuse.  Btw, when a total stranger says ciao to you out of the blue, there’s zero chance that he’s Italian.

Uncle Boons Frog legsWhen you walk inside Uncle Boons you immediately notice two things.  1)  How uncomfortable everyone looks.  2) Rotisserie chickens slowly spinning behind the glass.  Clearly the chickens are there to serve as hypnosis, especially against French Rotisserie chicken loving Michelin inspectors.  Otherwise, how else would you explain the anti-Michelin scene at the bar and on the side of the entrance.  One woman was practically bent sideways while enjoying her Yum Kai Hua Pli.  Considering there are two other rooms, one with communal tables, leading you to your table is like the dining version of Russian roulette.  We survived the bullet at first it seemed, but then realized the third wheel of the booth next to us, has his back practically leaning against our table.  The place is so cramped, taking pictures of the food means taking pictures of your neighbor food as well.

But all is well at the end when the food is this good.  The two Per Se veterans created a Pok Pok like menu that is very far from your average Thai.  Just like Pok Pok’s Andy Ricker did, Matt Danzer & Ann Redding traveled all over Thailand, gathering inspiration.  And just like at Pok Pok, creative drinks is part of the game, and a certain chicken is more than just sitting pretty for Michelin inspectors.Uncle Boons Chicken

Frog Legs – If you’ve never had frog legs before, this is a good place to start.  If you had them before, order it still.  Garlic & soy marinated juicy fried legs over addictive glass noodles, and lemongrass & Thai herb salad.  There’s not a whole lot of meat on those bones understandably, but every bite counts in a big way

Crab Fried Rice – A pretty standard fried rice with heaps of chunky crab.  The flavor is there, but if there was one thing missing from that texture is some crunch by way of socarrat

Rotisserie Half Chicken – By itself, with all its tenderness and juiciness, the chicken would have been a solid but somewhat dull dish.  Which is where the sickest green mango salad comes in, along with two dipping sauces.  The lemongrass, Ginger sauce in particular works like magic with that chicken

Seafood in Broth – Another terrific dish.  Red Snapper, prawns and clams in a rich Turmeric broth.  Mrs Z’s favorite dish of the night.  Mine was the chicken

Beef Ribs – I almost ordered it, and sort of wish I did after the table next to us got it.  The best thing I can tell you for now is that it smells amazing.  Next time I would order it along with the chicken with banana blossom salad which I was all set to order until the waitress warned Mrs Z that its extremely spicy.

Dessert – I feel like the Yelp fave coconut ice cream sundae is a bit overrated.  Though it didnt make Mrs Z make a Robert de Niro face and start spitting profusely as she normally does with coconut.  The condensed milk soaked Brioche was like a French Toast gone wrong.  I dont expect greatness out of Thai dessert, so I’m not deducting anything for that.   Uncle Boons is quite possibly the best Thai in NYC right now

Uncle Boons
7 Spring St (Nolita)
$$$
Recommended Dishes: All of the above (except the Brioche)Uncle Boons Talay Uncle Boons Fried Rice Uncle Boons Coconut Ice Cream

 

 

Categories: New York City, Nolita | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Best Thai in Hell’s Kitchen

Pure Thai Ratchaburi

Pure Thai Ratchaburi

Pure Thai Cookhouse – Among the plethora of Thai eateries flooding 9th avenue, Pure Thai stands out (and so will you for a while unless you arrive early or in off hours).  It was built to resemble a Shophouse in Thailand in order to give you a taste of the Thai food culture.  The menu doesn’t feature the usual curry suspects, but more daring dishes that represent various regions of Thailand.  E.g. The Jungle fried rice, the simple Ratchaburi with homemade dry noodles, crab and pork, and the more intense Wok Curry Paste with Pork.  The lone dessert, pumpkin custard with coconut sticky rice wrapped inside a banana leaf always a recipe for a full blown attack.  766 9th (51/52)

Pure Thai Pumpkin

Pure Thai Pumpkin

Pam Real Thai –  If you are looking for chandeliers, table cloth, and a little bench for your man purse, you will not find it here.  Though “Room Service” another Thai player nearby does have some of these things including nice chandeliers.  The minimalist décor is the same as it was 10-15 years ago, and so is the menu.  But if you are a fan of flavor and dont care about anything else, this is the place for you.  The sick Oxtail soup is reason enough to go, and just about everything else I ever had here is made with a lot of love.  Try the Pad Kra Prow (with shrimp), Seafood Kee Mao, Pad Prik Khing, and the terrific Khao Soi.  The menu size is intimidating, so ask away if not sure.  And the $2 Thai Ice Teas help combat the occasional hefty spice levels.  404 W 49th St (off 9th)

Pam Real Oxtail Soup

Pam Real Oxtail Soup

Larb Ubol – In the last several years, we’ve seen a slew of eateries open, specializing in Isan cooking.  First there was Zabb Elee who intorduced the bold Northeastern flavors to us, until they gave birth to Larb Ubol.  Don’t expect anything more than a bookstore café type décor (notice a trend here?).  I bike here sweating the heavy traffic in order to sweat some more with dishes such as the peppercorn heavy Pad Ped Moo Krob and the Duck Larb.  The spice levels approach “Thai Spicy” at times (but not quite there) so this is not for the faint of sugar seeking heart.  But hey, this is after all Hell’s Kitchen.  480 Ninth Ave (37/36)

Larb Ubol Whole Fish

Larb Ubol Whole Fish

Kare Thai – You know what the next best thing to Thai food on 9th?  Thai food on 10th!  Yes, they are naturally spreading to 10th these days because they are running out of real estate.  And among them all, little Kare is my favorite.  I’ve had some pleasant meals here with co-workers though I mainly use it for a convenient quick Kee Mao grab on the go, always greeted by smiles.  And the complimentary lunch special snack helps.  You know what they say,  “You give a smile, you get Shumai!”.  752 10th Ave (51/52)

Kare Thai

Wondee Siam II – Back in the day, this was the place I frequented.  And although I havent been in many years, I still have devoted co-workers that swear by this place.  If you are new to Thai food, or simply want to taste something familiar that you are used to and enjoy back home like Green curry and Pad Thai, this may be the right place for you.  813 Ninth Ave (53/54)

Pure Thai Pork

Pure Thai Pork

Larb Ubol larb

Larb Ubol larb

Larb Ubol Pad Ped Moo Krob

Larb Ubol Pad Ped Moo Krob

 

Categories: Midtown West, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Gentleman’s Guide to Pok Pok

Pok Pok WingsAnthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown Thailand” with Andy Ricker is one of my favorite food episodes of all time.  It was real, it was fun, and it gives you a good size glimpse of what exactly is behind Ricker’s motivation… women!  Yes, food and the culture are probably high up there, but its probably the women that made the man move back and forth and back again for 20 years.  Even some of the servers at Pok Pok NY including the boys were a sharp reminder that you are at a Ricker establishment.  I vividly recall one particular moment from that episode where they visit a family run shack somewhere remotely, where Ricker starts flirting with a girl pretty much in front of her parents.  Now that is some Chutzpah.

The last time I was accused of being a gentleman was the last time we visited Turks and Caicos, where I kept opening the car door for Mrs Ziggy.  But that was because I can never get used to the location of the wheel and keep opening the wrong door.  At Pok Pok blvd in Red Hook Brooklyn, Mr and Mrs Hummus Whisperer and us got to open three different Pok Pok doors;  The Whiskey Soda Lounge while munching on the famous wings (the only item available from the flagship menu), Pok Pok NY (the flagship), and Pok Pok Phat Thai (Pk Pok light) just for the hell of it.  A fun meal overall, and vastly different than the 9th Ave Thai some of us are so used to.  Here’s the food rundown

Pok Pok Boar Collar

Pok Pok Boar Collar

Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings.  I don’t know who this Ike guy is but I’m guessing he is a good guy, and an honest citizen, and probably a fantastic cook.  These are plus size Amish wings that are seasoned in such a way that you will contemplate not washing hands for a few days.

Het Paa Naam Tok – Spicy forest mushrooms with soy sauce, lime and chili powder dressing, shallots, lemongrass, mint, cilantro and toasted rice powder.  Perhaps the only dish I didn’t care much about.  Sounds exciting at first but the result was way too much acid for those delicate mushrooms.  Probably works better with meat

Kaeng Hang Leh – Northern Thai sweet pork belly and pork shoulder curry with ginger, palm sugar, turmeric, tamarind, burmese curry powder and pickled garlic.  This was really good.  Super tender pork in a rich, sweet but tasty brown curry.  An important note to Yelpers:  Pork Belly is in fact fatty

Muu Paa Kham Waan – Boar collar meat rubbed with garlic, coriander root and black pepper, glazed with soy and sugar.  Grilled over charcoal and served with chilled mustard greens and a spicy chili/lime/garlic sauce.  Even the slightly overcooked Boar didn’t stop it from being the dish of the night.  Its all in the sauce of gods that could even make your car keys eatable.  Fantastic dish!

Pok Pok Khao Soi

Pok Pok Khao Soi

Khao Soi Kay – Northern thai mild curry noodle soup made with curry paste recipe and coconut milk, served with house pickles mustard greens.  A little trickier to share but Khao Soi as good as I ever had

Cha Ca “La Vong” – Vietnamese catfish (or as they call it in South Florida,  Grouper ;)) marinated in turmeric and sour sticky rice, fried in turmeric oil with scallions and dill, served on rice vermicelli with peanuts, mint, cilantro and mam nem.  One of my favorite dishes here and something I’ve had before.  Before you even take your first bite, the herbs aroma make their mark and tell the brain “this is gonna be exquisite”

Winged Bean Salad – This was a special.  Florida grown crunchy sliced Winged Bean pods mixed with prawns, pork and a hefty amount of Thai Chilies.  The spiciest dish of the night by far, and something I would definitely order again.

Dessert was as exciting as Thai desserts can get.  A not so smelly Durian scented creation on sticky rice with coconut milk.  Slightly less successful than the similar pumpkin at Pure Thai Cookhouse.  The Affogato was your good basic Affogato but with Churros-like doughnuts.  The lone clunker was the ice cream sandwich which didn’t work for any of us.

Pok Pok NY
117 Columbia St, Brooklyn
$$$
Recommended Dishes:  Wings, Catfish, pork belly and shoulder, Boar Collar, Curry Soup

 

Pok Pok Catfish

Pok Pok Catfish

Pok Pok - Bean Salad

Pok Pok – Bean Salad

Pok Pok Mushroom Salad

Pok Pok Mushroom Salad

Pok Pok affogato

Pok Pok affogato

Pok Pok Durian

Pok Pok Durian

 

 

 

Categories: Brooklyn, New York City | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Somtum Der and Hava Nagila Shoes

Somtum Der BarThe other day I went to a fairly lavish wedding.  There was caviar, lobsters, oysters, and all sorts of opulence.  Heck, I even had to not only wear a suit and tie, but also the special shoes that are hidden in the hers and hers closet.  The special Hava Nagila shoes!  You know, the ones that you only allowed can take out when there’s Hava Nagila involved.  Another words, a big, special event.  So we danced, we laughed, we cried, and we met some unexpected familiar faces which was a big surprise since I came expecting to know no one.  In fact when someone asked me how I’m related, I said “you know the mother of the bride?  I know her boss”  Meaning my wife.  That’s the only person I knew.  But on this day, with all the caviar and all the wonderful things I ate, the best things I ate was fried chicken and grilled marinated pork, just 5 hours earlier at Somtum Der with none other than the Hummus Whisperer.

Somtum Der Lemongrass drinkSomtum Der is the type of place you wouldnt caught me dead wearing Hava Nagila shoes.  Meaning she will kill me if I ever attempt this terrible crime.  But the place is pretty neat.  I normally avoid eating Thai outside of Hell’s Kitchen since Hell’s Kitchen is fairly represented.  You want Isan cooking, we got that.  You want Ratchaburi, Hell’s Kitchen got that too.  But there were two places outside of HK that I wanted to try for a long time.  Somtum Der and Uncle Boons.  One down, one to go.

Somtum Der is a newish Isan, joining Zabb Elee, Larb Ubol and the great Queens Isan joints.  Isan is the historically poor Northeast Thailand region.  Normally poor means a lot of seasoning to compensate for the otherwise uneatable meats and fish.  Poor = creative = opportunity.  Like the folks in Turin, Italy back in the day, who added hazelnuts to chocolates to compensate for the great cocoa shortage, hence opening the doors to Nutella, Ferrero Rocher and every chocolate with hazelnut out there you’ve enjoyed all those years.

Papaya salad

Papaya salad

This Isan feels different than the rest.  The Papaya here is king as the name implies (Somtum means Green Papaya Salad.  Der means Dare as in “I dare you Americans to eat our Green Papaya Salad”).  In fact, “Papaya King” was replaced in the title by “Hava Nagila shoes” midway through the article.  Yes, thats how I operate.  Sickening isnt it?  But dont worry, I’m seeking help.  The menu is filled with 8 papaya salads.  Like kindergartners, we chose the one on the menu with the biggest picture, the one that says “Recommended”, while the rest of them either said “Not Recommended” or “Not Obamacare Friendly” (meaning, Thai spicy).  Our Tum Thai Kai Kem, papaya salad with salted egg was just right.  Just what one would expect from a Papaya Salad.  Some traditionalists may expect something more fiery but it was just right.

“Sharing is Caring” is the motto here, eating with forks and fingers, no knives (just like in Laos inspired Khe-Yo.  Laos is Isan’s neighbor, sharing some of the dishes and traditions.  Papaya salad was actually invented in Laos).  The Khao Moo Tod Kratiam Prik, fried garlic pork with jasmine rice and fried egg was good, Sa Poak Kai Tod Der der-style deep-fried chicken thigh was one of the highlights.  Moist, juicy, very flavorful, and not greasy at all.  Moo Ping Kati Sod grilled coconut milk marinated beef skewers was another winner.  “Moo” oddly means pork, not beef, but you can sub it with beef.  A tiny bit dry but excellent profound sweet coconut flavors.  Perhaps the dish of the day was the Moo Rong Hai Derhouse special grilled marinated pork.  Fantastic seasoning producing deep lasting flavors, with two coconut rice sticks to help cool things off.  Just about each dish came with the house made hot sauce, other than the rice dish which came with fish sauce.  The only disappointment was the Sai Krok Isan, fried Isan sausages.  Not much flavor, or crunch on those sausages.  We tried to revive them with fish sauce, hot sauce, mouth to mouth to no avail

Marinated Pork

Marinated Pork

Dont leave without trying their refreshing Lemongrass Juice, and Thai Iced Tee.  In that order.  They were sadly out of the Taro in Condensed Coconut Milk, but the Thai Tee Panna Catta was surprisingly scrumptious.  It tasted just like Thai Iced Tea.  Cant wait to try the rest of the picture friendly menu

Somtum Der
85 Avenue A
$$
Recommended Dishes: Lemongrass Juice, Sa Poak Kai Tod Der, Moo Ping Kati Sod, Moo Rong Hai Der, Tum Thai Kai Kem

Rice and Pork

Rice and Pork

Beef Skewers

Beef Skewers

Chicken

Chicken

Sausages

Sausages

Somtum Der

Categories: East Village, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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