SriPraPhai, June 4, 2006
64-13 39th Ave.
WOW! As good as I've heard and then some. This will likely go down as one of the best dinners I'll have in New York. The flavors and balance of ingredients were incredible. Truly an eye opening and mouth watering experience. A true wake-up of the senses.
The restaurant itself is nothing special, and in fact gets really loud without even being filled to capacity. It's clean though and generally comfortable with room between tables so as not to feel cramped. Though I had to lean over the table to hear Donald for most of the evening - it was that loud.
Despite hearing about long waits (perhaps that was pre-expansion), we got a table immediately at 7:00pm on a Sunday...and our dining partner for the night, Donald (aka Dawg), had yet to arrive.
Though the restaurant is really easy to get to (6 Train to 42nd, 7 Train to 61st Street, Queens), I can't be sure when the next time I'll get out there, so we ordered a few more items than necessary. But with prices like these, why not.
The Crispy Watercress Salad was phenomenal. And a perfect way to start your meal here. I highly recommend it, and when I return, I will start with it again. Crispy watercress and red onion, thai basil, and kimchi-like shrimp, squid and chicken - an odd combo that worked well against all odds. I feel as though my mouth was turned on (think Timothy Leary, not your light switch). Awoken as if out of a famishing coma. The mind was rewarded for the introduction of such a dish of flavor and spice. This is up against Babbo's lamb's tongue vinaigrette for favorite salad of the year. It's going to be a toss-up.
Danna ordered the BBQ Pork appetizer. This was perfectly sauced and grilled, some pieces having strong traces of grill marks/char that made it taste even better. No frills - straightforward, tenderized pork with barbecue sauce - but superb in flavor.
Donald started off with the chicken curry puffs. I should note that we all shared, but I think that that is a given. These puffs, impossibly flaky - enough so to challenge the greatest of croissants, held a creamy blend of chicken in a mild curry. Very tasty though pedestrian for a place full of many other options.
Donald also ordered the Catfish curry over rice. This had an orange, masala-colored sauce that included chunks of eggplant and other vegetables. It was excellent. The catfish, imported from Thailand, had a nice texture to it but needed to be carefully navigated -- it required the removal of several tiny bones.
I ordered two main dishes. The first was from the Noodle menu. This was Beef Noodles (dark soup). I opted for the dark soup, though you could order the light instead. Perhaps not the most attractive of dishes, this included muddy-water looking soup, processed-looking meatballs, crispy pork rinds, two different noodles (one thick ribbon-style, the other very thin), and shredded beef. Goes to show that you can't always judge a book by its cover as it was delicious. The noodles, I guess would be akin to chow fun in Chinese cuisine and were very good -- they looked similar to squid. The meatballs were kind of bizarre, though the taste was good. Donald loved them -- and mentioned he's had this version several times before. I probably wouldn't order this again but am happy to have tried it - similar to my experience with the beef cheek raviolis at Babbo.Danna doesn't have the tolerance for heavy amounts of spice and heat, so I knew this would be a challenging dinner for her. But she was great throughout and did enjoy some of what she had. She really liked the BBQ pork. She ordered the Shrimp Pad Thai, which while not hot or spicy, did include shrimp that weren't deveined. That turned her off a bit. I ate some of the pad thai noodles and have to tell you -- they were very good and silky. Some lime squeezed over them gave it a nice touch.
Last but not least, I needed to try one of their curries. According to reports on Chowhound and elsewhere, the curry dishes were worth a go -- and I have to agree.
I went with a recommended one -- the Penang curry -- and have to tell you that it was unlike any other curry I've had before. This was topped with a yogurt of some kind, dill and red bell peppers. The chicken was fine, nothing special, but the heat of the curry sauce was electric. After trying five or six dishes, all with their own unique flavors and all previously unknown to me - this was yet another wake up call. Some bites were quite powerful (heat) though bites that included the yogurt cooled things down a little. Excellent - and definitely a would-be take-out favorite if I lived in the neighborhood. I'd order this again -- definitely.
I really loved this dining experience and now feel comfortable saying that I have experience eating Thai food. Previous "Thai" experiences are a huge disappointment in retrospect. I don't think I can have Thai food anywhere else now (stateside). If you haven't gotten there yet...don't wait any longer. Go.