I 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
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 mood
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 planet
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.
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.
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