Though I have previously reviewed (and enjoyed!) Ember Room, I stopped by for a press showing of their new menu items. Designed by Chef Kittichai, these are all progressive Thai comfort food, which sounds hoity-toity, but is really just the Chef’s versions of the food he eats when he visits home.
The vibe is the same as it ever was – cool, busy, sleek, and seeming much more hip than should be allowed for midtown.
But onto the food!
Starting the evening off with a bang, this shrimp is just plain old tasty. Incredibly thin and crispy coating shatters underneath the teeth, revealing plump and juicy shrimp. The shrimp’s delicate salty profile comes out when paired with the sweet glaze and the eggplant. The eggplant is, true to name, almost melting – it lands on the tongue with its signature earthy, deep flavor, then almost disappears instantly.
My favorite dish of the night. Warm scallops, seared to a salty crunch on the outside while remaining pleasantly soft within. Served with a sweet chili glaze, bracingly tart pomelos, and a fiery roasted pepper dressing, this is everything I want in a bite – crispy, meaty, sour, spicy, and a little sweet. This is a perfect melding of sea and land, and I could easily eat 15 of these.
This dish arrives to the table, and just as its sweet coconut scent practically forces you to dive in and start eating, the server pours fire over the chicken, burnishing the skin to a crispy char. No, this isn’t Cirque Du Soleil, it’s just midtown. After such a display, you might think that this chicken is all form and no function. You would be so wrong. Juicy and succulent, even the breast meat is impossibly rich, infused with coconut and fragrant turmeric. Sprinkled with crispy shallots, all it needs is a swipe through the tart green chile sauce (laden with cilantro and quite similar to a salsa verde) to brighten its flavor and make it truly well-rounded.
Though this lacks the best part of a bibimbap (the crispy layer of rice at the bottom of the dolsot), it is still a delicious dish. The rice here is very creamy, almost like a risotto, but not at all liquidy. The kimchee is zesty but not too spicy or fishy, and the egg yolk makes everything rich. The beef is served very rare and cooks slightly as it sits in the warm bowl, the sweet sauce caramelizing around the edges.
Warning – for those of you who are squeamish, this comes with the head still attached. For the rest of us, it is just some delicious fried fish. Served with the chunks of fish mostly taken off the skeleton and filleted for you, it is flaky within and crunchy without. Fried at such a high temperature that it is practically greaseless, this is so delicately seasoned and cooked that it almost seems heresy to say that it is fried.
Maybe it’s cliche, but who cares? There is no better ending to a Thai meal than juicy slices of mango accompanied by glutinous rice, so sticky and dense that it catches the mangos juices and becomes just another vehicle for the tropical flavor. Served alongside creamy coconut ice cream, it is a sweet and comforting way to end a delicious meal.
Ember Room has really improved over the last year. I didn’t have one dud during the whole tasting course. The prices are good for the neighborhood, and GREAT for the quality of food that you get.
The Ember Room still knows how to bring it, pyrotechnics and all.
*Disclaimer: I received this meal free of charge and was not required to write about it. My opinions are my own and unbiased.*