New York City has hundreds of Thai restaurants. I'm going to try them all--using sheer will power and an addiction to curry. Follow my quest here!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Review #7: Cafetasia

It's been months since I went to Cafetasia but I just wanted to post something about it mostly so I remember not to go there again. I work about two blocks from this place (85 Avenue A--map below) and one night in particular I wanted to grab some Real NYC Thai Food Takeout for visiting guests of honor Christopher Dawson and Allison Dreon. There are other Thai places right on that stretch but I was in a hurry (noticing a theme here?) so I stopped into the first place I saw. Mistake.

It was expensive. It took forever. The place looked like a wannabe posh downtown club that was sad and uncool. The tofu was huge slimy chunks of bland. They swam in a murky white sauce of bland. It was a little embarrassing to try to show off my food adventures to VA friends and come up with this. So yeah, lame. I give them a 2 because at least it was sustenance and slightly warm and there was a LOT of tofu.

Cafetasia rating: 2
Price: High
Service: Average to slow
Food: Almost yucky
Portions: Average
Ambiance: Average

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Review #6: Sticky Rice

Last night after work I decided to get some take-out and wine to bring home for wonderful, hard-working, never-complaining T, who had spent his whole workday driving a rental car around to about half the wastewater treatment plants in the city taking samples. Of poop. Okay, it was treated poop and technically "fertilizer" but still. Add that to the fact that he had worked the night before until 2:30am and it's a pretty stinky day (ba-da-bing!) so what better way to improve it than with Thai food and booze? I ran by Bluestockings to pick something up and asked about nearby options and the choice was immediately obvious: Sticky Rice.

Richmonders: I know what you're thinking. "Carly, is there room in your life for more than one Sticky Rice?" Well, I've thought about it quite a bit (okay, five minutes) and the answer is yes, if they are of different cuisine genres. And since Richmond Sticky Rice is by far the best [super Americanized] sushi and tater tots--what genre are they?--on earth, I had very high hopes for its Thai sibling, Sticky Rice of the Lower East Side (map below).

The decor in the restaurant was really cool and trendy--not trying too hard, but lots of texture and ambiance. I was a little sad I was just getting takeout (and even more so when I came home and read the reviews lauding their BYOB policy). The menu was pretty standard, though they did have a "BBQ" section that wasn't intriguing enough for me to read at the time (I was in a little bit of a hurry to get home and chow down/snuggle) but might be cool if you were eating there! I ordered one Massaman Curry w Tofu + Veggies (for T) and a Red Curry w Tofu + Veggies -- two similar dishes but that's what we were each in the mood for.

It took almost 15 minutes for my food to be ready, which is pretty long for a below-averagely busy place. On the other hand, each entre was only $10 which is pretty affordable for NYC (particularly in the Lower East Side). After an unremarkable commute, I made it home and T and I dug in. The tofu was pretty awesome: lots of big pieces and full of flavor. Veggies were a little "meh"--mostly overcooked and only two awkwardly (unpleasantly) large broccoli pieces. There was one really good and one really bad thing about each dish: the really good part was the mint-green-colored sticky rice! Really cool! I had to tell T it was green, and after some initial doubt, he eventually believed me. It was yummy. The bad part was the sauce: not creamy/coconut-y at all! It was also very spicy, in a mostly-good but sometimes-overwhelming way.

The verdict: maybe try eating in another time, but not a fantastic take-out experience. However, the accompanying gift-wrapping, hot-cocoa-drinking, and snuggling experience was way above average.

Tai Thai rating: 6.5
Price: Reasonable
Service: Slow
Food: Spicy
Portions: Average
Ambiance: Nice but N/A

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Thursday, December 2, 2010

It's been forever!!

It's been much too long since I last reviewed a Thai place, but I will soon. Promise.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Review #5: Qi (Flatiron/Union Sq area, Manhattan)

Last week, T and I were craving some date-ish time and although he only had about an hour between jobs on this particular night, I knew that I'd be able to meet up with him--and if we had a place in mind, we could fit in a real sit-down dinner. Well, as happens to most plans set in NYC, things went a bit awry but in the end we did get to try Qi (31 W 14th St b/t Fifth Ave and Ave of the Americas) and I'm really glad we did.

Both coming off sort of "meh" shifts at work, then getting our signals crossed about where to meet, then walking the wrong way for a little while, brought us to the doors of Qi hungry, cranky, and in a rush. As countless yelp users have noted, the decor inside was amazing (ships in the air! wall-to-ceiling abacus art!) and at first we doubted that they would even do takeout. Fortunately, they did, and the host was really nice even though I suspect I had "I'm GROUCHY!!!" written all over my face. We glanced at the menu at lightening speed, picked the Pad See Ew and the Red Curry (both my faves, yes, we share everything, I know, it's sickening) and sat down on a weird plastic "couch" to wait. Less than 5 minutes later, we had our food and were trucking it over to Union Square to sit on the steps and have an al fresco "picnic" dinner.

The Pad See Ew was a little greasier than I like it, but otherwise it tasted great and had a nice amount of tofu and Chinese broccoli (only two pieces of American broccoli though. wtf?). My one wish for Pad See Ew is that it will have other veggies too, but often that's not the case (it was not the case for Qi). The Red Curry, however, was fantastic! Nice and creamy but also spicy. Heavy on the tofu, green beans and broccoli; light on the green peppers. Just how I like it! There was still the seemingly-perpetual problem of not enough rice, but we just took the leftover sauce/veggies home, added some of our own veggies (MORE BROCCOLI NOM NOM NOM), made more rice, and got a second meal out of it! Score!

Qi rating: 8
Price: Reasonable/Low for dinner
Service: Pretty Fast
Food: Mostly good
Portions: Average to large
Ambiance: Beautiful (but ultimately N/A since we did takeout.

Friday, September 24, 2010

LUNCH SPECIAL SHOWDOWN - Reviews #3 & #4: Tai Thai (E Village) and Pukk (E Village)

As many of you know, one of my several jobs is working as a nanny for a family in the East Village. Their daughter, whom I adore, is only 8.5 months old--meaning that a lot of our outside-the-house time together involves wandering around the neighborhood, looking at boutiques full of clothes I could never afford, and getting Thai takeout for me to eat while she takes her afternoon nap. Glamorous, I know.

Now, there are quite a few Thai places within a ten-minute walk of this baby's house. And although my frugal side often tries to remind me in the morning before I walk out the door that the cost of eating out is approximately four times the cost of bringing a can of soup and an apple to work, the Thai-obsessed part of me usually wins by reasoning, "yeah, but if you get a lunch's only TWICE as expensive!"

So here we are with two places from which I got a lunch special in the past two weeks.

First up: Tai Thai (yes, another place named Tai Thai) at 78 E. 1st Street

Tai Thai offers five entree options for their lunch special, all of which can be made with chicken OR tofu + veggies (score!). The choices are: Pad Thai, Thai Fried Rice, Red Curry, Green Curry, or Massaman Curry. As you can see, one of my go-tos (Pad See Ew) is not a choice, but my recent conversion into a red curry fan means that that's what I get. The special also comes with rice (yes, in NYC that's considered an extra item) and a "side salad" which is basically iceberg lettuce drenched in peanut dressing with two tofu chunks thrown in for good measure. You get all these things for $5.95! I really enjoy the red curry and consider it alone worth that price--a GREAT combo of veggies (I usually ask for mine without mushrooms and then I love every single veggie in there!) and the spiciness just inches up next to my upper limit. That means that with a box of tissues, I'm good to go!

Tai Thai rating: 7.5
Price: Reasonable
Service: Fast (takeout)
Food: Extremely tasty
Portions: Average
Ambiance: N/A (takeout)*

*although I will say that I have eaten sit-down here once, all alone, and it was delightful. Dark wood kind of interior strung with colorful lights and decorated with some obscure thai movie posters.

Next up: Pukk Vegetarian Thai Cuisine at 71 First Avenue.

First of all, this is an entirely vegetarian place and that. is. awesome. In NYC it's not all that unusual, but as a vegetarian it sometimes gets old seeing how many options there are at most places for omnivores when your options are mostly salads, a plate of four side vegetables, or pre-dinner bread (think: Outback Steakhouse). Pukk also has a really long list of entree options for their lunch special--13, actually--and most of those use soy meat (esp. fake duck) instead of the standard tofu. I myself am a tofu nut, especially since I have yet to learn how to cook it well; I also never really liked duck in the first place, so why would I want imitation? It just doesn't appeal to me. They do offer a Pad See Ew (with fake duck) but since I was planning on comparing Pukk to Tai Thai, I ordered the red curry. One thing that jazzed me up about Pukk is that their lunch special, priced at $6, comes with not only a soup (and rice), but also your choice of one of six appetizer. I went with the spring rolls.

Unfortunately, all this buildup about Pukk made it almost impossible for them to meet my expectations. Yes, there was soup and an appetizer, but both were tiny portions. There was much less rice than I had expected (although I did get to have brown rice) and by the time we made it back home, the curry itself has separated a bit and created a nasty grease-layer on top. When I stirred it around, I discovered that, sadly, their "Panang Curry Tofu" actually had no tofu in it! WTF people? This meant that I had an average-sized plate of curry sauce with some veggies sprinkled in there, plus a teeny container of rice. Also--to add insult to injury--the curry was wayyyy too hot for me. And if wanting tofu w my veggies and being a spiciness wuss makes me wrong, well...i don't want to be right.

Pukk rating: 4.5
Price: Reasonable
Service: Fast (takeout)
Food: Slightly below average
Portions: Slightly below average (rice-extremely below average)
Ambiance: N/A (takeout)

So there you have it! Tai Thai wins by a landslide. I will probably end up giving Pukk another chance in the future and maybe order something different--but in the meantime there's Mini Thai Cafe, Cafetasia, Holy Basil, Klong, Tara Thai, Thai on Clinton, and more! PHEW!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Review #2: Tai Thai (Brooklyn)

Because he is the world's perfect significant other, T is ultra-awesome about me dragging him around to various Thai places across the city; and since I'm the world's most evil significant other, I sometimes capitalize on his lack of directionality, meaning I embellish the closeness of a given Thai restaurant so that he'll agree to go. So when we FINALLY got to Tai Thai in Williamsburg (Yelp page here, no Google map available), we were famished.

We were seated quickly, but were only given one menu (?) for a while until someone noticed and brought us another; then it was another 5-10 minutes until someone brought us water. Like all non-fancy restaurants in NYC, the tables were super close together and the place didn't seem especially clean, but there was a garden option in the back (which we didn't take bc it was 95 degrees out), which is always nice. I ordered the noodles in curry broth (can't remember what name it goes by there), with tofu and veggies. There were about 3 pieces of tofu and many good veggies, but it was REALLY spicy--I had to ask for extra napkins several times to take care of my runny nose. T's Massaman Curry was also way too hot, and he had trouble eating it as quickly as his hungry stomach wanted to allow. The portions were large enough for us to eat about half and then have the rest for lunch the next day--which is always a plus. Besides, there's few neighborhoods in the city better for people-watching than hipster/hasid-laden Williamsburg; so it's almost like there's free entertainment along with the dinner!

Tai Thai rating: 6.5
Price: Reasonable
Service: Slow
Food: Spicy
Portions: Average to large
Ambiance: Average

Review #1: East Village Thai

This is a cop-out, but I think it will help me get started...

Last week, I was feeling very tired after a long day at work, and bummed out because I had just lost my phone in a cab (FAIL). So on the way to the subway to go allllll the way home to Brooklyn, I stopped into a tiny hole in the wall Thai place that I had never seen before called "East Village Thai" for some takeout. Even though it's not Zagat rated (Paris Gellar would certainly be disappointed), Yelp users give it 4 out of 5 stars, which surprises me a lot in retrospect because what I got didn't even taste like Thai food. I was in a comfort-food kind of mood, which for me means Pad See Ew, and there were absolutely no Thai flavors present; actually, it tasted very Chinese-food-y to me. Which isn't a bad thing, except for when you really want Thai food. So basically I got this reasonably priced takeout (which was pretty much the only option bc the place is itty-bitty and sort of dark) and waited 40 mins on the subway and then finally got home to eat it and it was more like mediocre Chinese food. BUMMED OUT!

East Village Thai rating: 5
Price: Reasonable
Service: Fast (takeout)
Food: Not actually Thai
Portions: Irrelevant
Ambiance: N/A