Pam Real Thai is the Real Deal

This is a review that, once lost in the archives, must be brought to light. Because it’s about a place that is very near and dear to my heart.

One of my favorite restaurants on the planet is Pam Real Thai in Hell’s Kitchen.

There is an offshoot of this restaurant called Pam Real Thai Encore, and both places are equally fabulous.  This branch of the restaurant is casual, dirt cheap, and unbelievably delicious.

Pam Real Thai is a bare bones establishment-laminated menus, sparse decorations, cash only.  You don’t come here for atmosphere, you come here for food. Pam herself is often in the kitchen and you don’t leave here without a heavy dose of garlic breath!

*And, if you are Thai, for special kinds of food.  Many times I dine here, I see Thai people with condiment caddies of spices and sauces and special menus written in Thai.  This is stuff that I have never gotten, and for which, I am embarrassed to say, I have never asked.  You should really just bite the bullet and ask for this stuff  when you go!*

 

 

Pad See Eil (Stir Fried Beef with Chinese Broccoli and Gravy over Stir Fried Flat Rice Noodles)

The penultimate version of Pad See Eil.   The rice noodles are chewy and slicked with sweet and savory gravy that is redolent of fish sauce, soy, and palm sugar.  The beef pieces are not those tough, meager cuts one gets in lesser establishments, but garlicky marinated steak.  And the Chinese broccoli is in between broccoli raab and spinach – toothsome at the stalk, and silky smooth at the leaf. The NY Times recommends this dish, and so do I!

Pad Kee Mao-Stir Fried Meat and Flat Rice Noodles with Basil, Onions, Bell Peppers, and Chili.

This dish is insanely delicious!!! The bell peppers and onions are cooked only slightly, so they still have heft to them, and cloaked in the salty, spicy, garlicky sauce, they are heavenly.  The pork option is especially delicious – sweet and tender against the chewy rice noodles.  This is spicy enough to curl your hair, and though you can order it milder…why would you? This is Thai food, designed to make your life seem more worthwhile via food-induced pain. 

 When you see a specialty of northern Thailand, you absolutely get it – it’s not often that you see a Northern Thai dish on a menu.

This is-and this is an absolute compliment-Thai sloppy joes.  Seasoned ground chicken in a soupy sauce made of coriander, tomatoes, and something swee t- probably palm sugar. It is not very spicy but it is very tasty.  Sweet and savory, with a very mild, floral note of cilantro.

On the side, are cucumber, cabbage, and steamed broccoli and cauliflower florets.  At first these additions seem totally random, but when you dip the veggies in the sauce, it gave the dish a whole new dimension! Stirring the raw cabbage into the stew, gently wilting it, brings out the fragrant Thai spices and gave the cabbage a savory, meaty heft.

 

 Pam Real Thai is the real deal. Spicy, well balanced food with pungent, multifaceted flavors. You will struggle to spend more than $12 at lunch (including a $1 can of soda; a rarity in any city these days, let alone NYC) and though the service might be  a little brusque, it is always efficient and on point. This is just one of the best Thai restaurants around, and I hope you give it a try.

Give me a call when you do…we can ask for one of those condiment caddies together. 

Lotus of Siam, Take 2

I have been to Lotus of Siam before.

I have waxed poetic about the juicy stuffed chicken wings and sweet, sticky mee krob. I have talked about the large dining room that is so comfy that you might think you are in your grandma’s homestyle restaurant. I have talked about its many accolades and its legions of fans (This visit, Jim Belushi dined there the night that we did, this time).

What I might not have mentioned is that the menu has seemingly thousands of options. It’s a little intimidating and requires some research and multiple visits to try all the dishes for which the eatery is famous.

So consider this review number two in a series of posts that are sure to come about this truly astonishing restaurant.

Nam Kao Todd –  Crispy rice mixed with sour minced pork sausages, green onions, fresh chilis, ginger, peanuts and lime juice

Thank you, Serious Eats, for pointing me in this direction. The rice is fried until it puffs and pops like salty Rice Krispies cereal beneath your teeth. The sausage is in tiny, ham-like dices; bright and acidic. Tiny peanuts echo the slightly fatty taste of the sausage and the whole thing is liberally sprinkled with dried and fresh chiles. The dried chiles are smoky with a back-of-the-throat burn and the fresh chiles have a high, almost electric lip-singeing quality. They each play their part, and that’s the takeaway from this dish. Every ingredient plays its part to create one cohesive, multi-layered taste. This dish’s report card would read: “plays well with others”

Nam Prik Ong – Red chili dip

Described like a spaghetti meat sauce on the menu, this was a fan favorite. The dip isn’t spicy at all, just zesty and aromatic with ginger, onions, and garlic. It is thick enough to scoop up with the raw veggies of a handful of delightfully glutinous sticky rice and the sweet tomatoes contrast nicely with the grassy coriander and ground pork. Speaking of pork, these pork cracklings are the first ones I have ever had that I actually like. They are not overtly “barnyard-y” or brittle, they are just insanely light and crispy – almost like a Pop chip, but with no salty, chemical-y aftertaste.

Thum Ka Noon – Shredded and pounded young jackfruit

This was the one dish that divided our table. Half of them hated it – called it mushy and tasteless, with the texture of cat food and an insipid flavor. The rest of us (myself included) LOVED this dish – it was my second favorite dish of the night. It is soft and homogeneous  but I didn’t find it mushy or cottony. It reminds me of pulled chicken or pork tempered with fresh cilantro, tomatoes, and the hit of diced chiles. The jackfruit was, for me, totally textural with no real taste of its own – it was ideal to pump up the volume of the dish without distracting form the pork’s flavor. I loved this with crunchy cabbage and sticky rice, and I hope that you do, too!

Penang Curry with chicken

`I love massaman curry as much as the next gal, but every now and then you have to branch out, right? This is massaman gone Wall Street (the original movie) – fast paced, high end, and a little dangerous. It is creamy from coconut milk and has a burnished color from the dried and fresh chiles, bu that is where the similarities between the two curries end. Whereas massaman is zesty and comforting, like a ginger tinged creamy chicken soup, the penang is lively and downright aggressive with its spices. If you like spicy food this won’t set you on fire, but if you aren’t used to it, this will probably build up a sweat on your brow. The fresh slices of jalapeno have a vaguely grassy, lemony taste that they pick up from the creamy and smoky chile gravy. The chicken itself is juicy and tender, filled with aromatics and sweet, spicy flavors that I can’t even begin to dissect. This had even the most spice-phobic people at that table clamoring for more, pouring the sauce over sticky and jasmine rices, swiping the bowl with fingers. If you like massaman then you may LOVE this – just be prepared for a bit more heat.

This ain’t the last Lotus of Siam review. I am going to go there every time that I visit Vegas until I get through the entire menu. Or at least until I faint from too much sticky rice. Hey, it’s the best Thai restaurant in America (some say int he world), it’s reasonably priced, and I haven’t even scratched the surface of the fabulous menu options.

Don’t worry, next time I go, I promise to say hi to Jim* for you.

*Jim Belushi, remember?!

 

Spicy Thai Cilantro and String Bean Stir Fry

This recipe is based on this one - a traditional Thai dish that I love.

But you know what else I love? Not having to go out of the house to get ingredients.

That’s where this dish came from…ingredients I had in the house. It ended up turning gout so well that I’m not sure I would even go back to make the original! If you don’t have fish sauce, you can use Worcestershire sauce, but the flavor won’t be exactly spot on. Definitely buy some fish sauce the next time you are at a specialty or Asian grocery store – a bottle lasts forever and is so, so useful.

Spicy Thai Cilantro and String Bean Stir Fry

Ingredients:

1  lb. ground chicken

1/2 lb. string beans, cleaned and chopped in half or pieces

1 bell pepper, diced

1 onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, diced

3 Serrano peppers, diced

2 tbsp. fish sauce

1 tbsp. soy sauce

2 tbsp. sugar

1 tbsp. ground ginger

2 tsp. rice wine vinegar

2 tbsp. vegetable oil

large handful cilantro leaves (at least 1.5 cups), cleaned

1. Oil a large skillet or wok, and put the heat on high until the oil shimmers. Then, drop in the onion, garlic, chiles, and bell pepper.

2. In about 10 minutes, or when the veggies are fragrant and starting to soften, add in the string beans, ginger, fish sauce, sugar, and soy sauce. Let it cook for 10 minutes more, or until the string beans have softened in some parts and charred in others. The fish sauce will be stinky – don’t worry, it really calms down once it reduces and the flavor will be savory and salty, not at all fishy. 

3. Add the rice vinegar and cilantro. Taste the sauce and see if it needs more sour, salty, or sweet. Adjust accordingly.

4. Add the chicken and cook for 5 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Taste for seasonings

You may need a little splash of Sriracha to get it to that really tear inducing heat level.

5. Serve

I still love gai pad krapow , but wow…this might give it a run for its money. The string beans are juicy and slightly charred. The bell peppers are sweet and soft, and the chiles add a light, citrusy heat. The fish sauce really adds that deep umami flavor that that food has – not at. The tang of the rice wine vinegar, salt of the soy, and sugar compete the fully rounded taste. The chicken is bursting with fresh cilantro flavor and is light enough to eat for lunch. It isn’t overly salty or spicy, especially if you eat it with rice noodles. This would also be great with broccoli or a few cherry tomatoes. I can’t think of anything this wouldn’t be great with – it is healthy, it is tasty, and it is so easy to make.

I am so glad that I didn’t want to go out of the house for groceries.

Betel – Fantastic Happy Hour in the West Village

If you find yourself out of work early (say, by 5:30) and anywhere near the West Village, you have to head to this spot. It is one of the best places in the city to grab some really flavorful food and inventive drinks for great happy hour prices. Though it gets crowded later on, early for happy hour is pretty mellow,so you can get the bartenders’ full attention (and the gentleman who served me was very cute and Australian ladies…or maybe he was just Australian and the accent made him cute…who knows, right?)

via

Betel is a year old Asian restaurant, focused on the flavors of Thailand and Malaysia. It is dark, small, and oozes “hip.” You know the type: long communal tables, exposed brick, and sexy music. This is a fantastic first date place – hey, if your date doesn’t like these libations and foods, you don’t want to stick with him/her for long.

via

Lychee margarita with lime juice, silver tequila, lychee puree, and raw sugar rim

This is for those of you who like a drink to taste like there islittle alcohol in your juice, but act like there is a little juice in with your alcohol. The tequila is smooth and citrusy, with a little bit of bite that works well with the sweet, aromatic lychee puree and the fresh lime juice. This is more like a sweet and sour juice with just the barest kick of tequila, but after 2 just try to stand up without swaying. It’s in there…

Smoked Duck Sausage with chiles and ginger (right)

Soft duck sausage, smoky and gamey, served on a betel leaf that is slightly waxy but without much flavor. The sausage is intensely meaty, tempered by the sharp pickled ginger and a chile so spicy that you really have to eat it at your own risk. It is positively fiery, picking up the deep woodsy notes of the duck. it adds a high, bright note to a very musky bite, but – once again – with the ginger, this is a lot of heat and not much relief. Consider yourself warned.

Chicken Betel Leaf with roasted shallot and eggplant relish, lemongrass and mint (left)
Now, here is something that everyone can get into.  Diced chicken laced with tangy shallot and eggplant relish, pickled and salty enough to counteract the herbal lemongrass and zip of mint. The chicken is moist and juicy, full of sour and salty flavors. that is toned down by the cool lettuce cup. These small bites are so addictive you might need 2 orders.

Sweet and sour pork ribs

Absolutely the belle of the ball. Saucy, juicy, and satisfying on every carnivorous level. Tender bbq pork, charred at the edges, crunchy and smoky. Underneath the thick lacquer of sweet and tangy sauce, the meat is tender and juicy, striking the perfect balance between melting in the mouth too quickly and having too much chew. Sharp scallions atop the deep, hearty ribs, are the final touch.

 The food here is delicious any time of night, but when you get it for almost half off, there is no excuse to miss it. The bartenders are really great – my glass of water is always full, they are never pushy with the drinks, and food comes out fast and hot. Now that you know about Betel, the only thing keeping you from checking out happy hour is work.

That stuff always gets in the way.

Ember Room’s Progressive Thai Comfort Food

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!

Crispy Rock Shrimp with Roasted Melting Eggplant

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.

“Yum Hoi” Pomelo Scallops with  chili jam glaze, pomelo salad, and roasted pepper-lime dressing

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.

Had Yai Volcano Chicken - oven-roasted turmeric-coconut marinated chicken, green chili sauce

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.

Korean BBQ-Beef Fried Rice-wok-fried rice, kimchee, bbq beef, topped with raw egg

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.

Crispy Whole Striped Bass with sweet/sour/spicy sauce, and crispy basil

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.

Mango and Sticky Rice with Coconut Ice Cream

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.*

Ninth Avenue International Food Festival

The Ninth Avenue Food International Festival is, in many ways, the same as any old NYC street fair.

The throngs of people, the dollar socks, the flabby and tasteless mozzarepas. But, there are hidden gems in this street fair, where the best of ninth Avenue’s eateries set up booths and offer some really delicious food.

Empanada Mama

This 24 hour restaurant on Ninth Avenue is always packed and now I know why! The beef empanada was one of the best things that I ate all day.

A thick and flaky dough encases shredded beef, tender and so juicy that it drips down your chin in fluorescent orange. Smoky cumin, sharp garlic, and sweet onions all mingle with that unmistakably hearty flavor of beef brisket and makes this filling but far less greasy than you might think. I can’t wait to go back here and do a full review on this place!

Dalton’s

This nondescript bar that I have only frequented once (and then, only for the cheap vodka tonics) had the best pork offering of the day. This roast pig sandwich was delicious.

Crispy shards of skin surrounding succulent, sweet pork meat, all served on a squishy potato bun. Topped with sweet and spicy BBQ sauce (thankfully, no overpowering liquid smoke here), this is everything that you could want in a BBQ sandwich, except coleslaw. When you see this stand at the festival, run there, dont’ walk. And get two.

Red’s Hot Dogs

Get the specialty pork and beef sausage and watch it get grilled until it is charred and snappy outside, juicy and hearty inside. Choose from one of their many choices, like the banh mi or the baked potato dog, or top it yourself. The toppings here are free, even the premium ones, like a spicy, meaty chili and sweet sauteed onions.

This is one of the best hot dogs I have had in a while, and will gladly seek them out year after year. They frequent other street fairs during th year, so be sure not to miss them!

Millie’s Pierogies

What good polish girl can resist a pierogi? These are best when stuffed with sauerkraut, which is shockingly complex.

Not just sour, the kraut is also a little sweet and floral with juniper berry. Enased in rich, chewy dough and dipped in cool sour cream, it reminds me of dinners of my youth. Next time, I would absolutely try a steamed kilbasa topped with more of that sauerkraut.

Pure Thai Cookhouse

This is why this fair is so important to restaurants. I have been to Pure Thai before, and liked but didn’t love it. Now, I am determined to go back.

The BBQ Beef Buns were juicy and complex, with star anise, coriander, and ginger in the soft meat. Served in a sticky, fluffy bun and topped with tangy carrots and fragrant cilantro, this was a totally satisfying bite. I could have eaten 6 of these. Even better were the Thai Sausages and Sticky Rice.

The sausages, grilled and served with sweetly caramelized onions, were sweet, spicy, and pleasantly sticky. The rice was the perfect antitode to the incendiary sauce, pungent with fish sauce and hot with chiles. The umami punches never stopped coming with this dish, and my sister and I fought over the last of it. This was an unbelievable duo of dishes – though they aren’t on their regular menu, they convinced me to give Pure another try.

And if none of these looked good, you can always go for one of these:

After all, a corncake stuffed with fake cheese and cheap chorizo never hurt anyone.

Chicken Satay Stir Fry

What, did you think I was just going to give you a recipe for peanut sauce and send you on your merry way?

I’m not cruel like that.

This is a lazy, filling version of chicken satay. Forget pounding the chicken flat, forget pulling out the grill. Add a few veggies, throw it over noodles, and booyah. There you have it:

Chicken Satay Stir Fry

Ingredients:

1 recipe Thai Peanut Sauce

1 lb chicken tenders, cut into pieces

1 onion, cut into rings

8 oz mushrooms

1 head broccoli, broken into florets

1/2 head cabbage, shredded

6 cherry tomatoes

1 package noodles (rice are best, but soba or even regular pasta noodles will do)

Soy sauce, to taste

Oil, in which to saute.

1. Throw the broccoli in a pot of boiling water.  Let it boil for about 3 minutes, or until it turns bright green but still has crunch and isn’t really cooked. This is called blanching. When it has turned bright green, take it off the heat and put the florets into a bowl filled with ice water to stop the cooking process.

2. While the broccoli blanches, put the chicken and the 1/2 of the peanut sauce in a ziploc bag. Be sure to get the sauce on all the chicken pieces.

3. While the broccoli rests in the ice water, sautee the onion and mushrooms over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, until the onions have softened.

4. Add the broccoli (after drying it on a paper towel) to the pan, and sautee for an additional 5 minutes, or until the mushrooms have softened and the onions have started to turn golden at the edges.

5. Add the 1/2 of the remaining peanut sauce to the pan, and toss the veggies around in it.

6. Add the chicken and the marinade into the pan and turn the heat down to medium low.  Cook for about 10 minutes, or until the largest piece of chicken is fully cooked when you cut it in the middle. Also, here is where you may want to add more soy sauce.

Make sure that you turn it on medium low so you don’t have the burned peanut business that you see at the right edge of my pan.

Learn from my mistakes, people.

7. When the chicken is cooked, add the cabbage…

and the tomatoes. Wait until the tomatoes have popped and warmed through, and…

8. Serve over noodles with the remaining sauce.

This dish looks like a mish-mosh but it tastes like a dream. The peanut sauce becomes thicker and nuttier as it cooks, adding depth to the sweet onions and tender chicken. The broccoli softens but retains a bit of bite, and adding the cabbage at the last minute means that it wilts but still lends a crunch to the dish. This is salty, savory, nutty, and delicious. As a bonus, it’s incredibly healthy.

But, don’t let that deter you.

It’s also damn tasty.

Thai Peanut Sauce

The older I get, the more I realize how different this world is, and how many different life paths people have taken. There are people who dedicate their lives to religion. There are people who go on epic journeys to find themselves.

And there are even people who have never had Thai peanut sauce.

Now, this my sound unbelievable to you – it certainly would to me. But, if you were raised in a tiny town or with parents who eschewed any food that didn’t include the phrase “served with mashed potatoes,” maybe you would have been deprived of this totally delicious sauce.

So, though it might seem obvious, I really think that a recipe for peanut sauce is warranted. Of course, since this is my blog, this sauce skews more towards the spicy and sour than the sweet.

Of course, since this is me, I also remind you to alter the proportions as you see fit.

Thai Peanut Sauce

Ingredients:

1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter (all natural is best, but use whatever you have in the house)

2 Tbs. vegetable oil

4 Tbs. rice wine vinegar

3 Tbs. low sodium soy sauce

4 scallions, white parts, minced

1 garlic clove, minced

2 tsp. minced ginger

1 Tbs. toasted sesame oil

1 tsp. brown sugar( omit if the pb you use has sugar in it)

1 heaping Tbs. sambal olek

1/4 cup cilantro, cleaned and chopped

1) Just mix it all together. Let it sit for 30 minutes in the fridge, bring it to room temperature, then taste it again and adjust it for seasonings.

See, it isn’t the most difficult thing. For all I know, it isn’t even authentic. All I know is that this is delicious. Sweet, salty, spicy, a little sour, and nutty. It might sound weird if you haven’t had it, but this is a wonderfully complex sauce, made from stuff you probably have in the house already. You can substitute onions for the scallions, but the scallions add a  sharpness that minced onions often lack. This is overtly Asian – bright and complex. Serve it over warm noodles as a sauce, with crudites as a dip, or you can even cook with it. Try marinating tofu in it, then grilling it. You want a recipe? Check back here tomorrow.

And if you haven’t ever had Thai peanut sauce…wow. Your world is about to be rocked.

One Hit Wonders – Good, Le Pescadeux, Pure Thai Cookhouse

I don’t always eat full meals at the restaurants I visit – if I had 3 courses and cocktails 5 times a week, I would be gigantic, poor, and probably have palate fatigue. This is a rundown of some delicious dishes that I have had at restaurants on which I couldn’t quite write a full review, but  knew that they deserved some notice. 
This restaurant is sophisticated, hip, and romantic with candlelight and an upscale comfort food menu. Though the service was a little uppity and aloof, the food and moderate prices made up for it. 
Burger with Aged Cheddar Cheese and Fries
Coarsely ground meat with a thick, dark crust concealing a warm, rosy patty. It was so moist that juices spilled onto the plate with each bite, saturating the salty fries with delicious bovine taste. The cheese was exceptional – tangy, sharp and thickly cut, and it stood up perfectly to the sturdy but not tough bun and that incredibly meaty burger. I am a big fan of condiments, but actually, this required no ketchup. It was more like steak than a burger – just fantastic, and worth every penny.

This lilliputian SoHo restaurant specializes in Montreal style seafood. That means lots of shellfish, including a fantastic oyster selection:
Beau Soleils, Moonstones, and Pine Islands
The Pine Islands were a first time oyster for me and each one knocked my socks off. Large, soft, and positively creamy – there was no salinity or iron-y taste. These were mild, light, and luxuriously textured. A squirt of lemon was all that was needed – didn’t even use any Tabasco here.
The best part? Each night from 4-7 PM, the oysters are all half price. 
Can I get a culinary “booyah?”

Every person who has been to Pure Thai Cookhouse has LOVED it; calling it incredibly spicy, incredibly delicious Thai food in a very casual, inexpensive setting. 
Wok Curry Paste with Pork, String Beans, Eggplant, Basil, Bamboo Shoots, Green Peppercorn Kaffir Lime Curry Sauce
This is perfect for those days when you want something with flavor but not too much spice. It is not overly greasy, garlicky, or salty. The pork is tender, and the sauce is very subtle and well balanced – sweet, bitter, sour, and just a bit spicy. My sister finds it far spicier than me, but she is a major wimp. The eggplant is soft but not mushy and the pork is thickly cut and tender, with no tendons or gristly bits. Pam is still my favorite Thai in the area, but if I had to go back to work in the afternoon and didn’t want a major food hangover, this would be my spot for sure. 
And there ya have it: Some of Fritos and Foie Gras’ one hit wonders!
Good on Urbanspoon
Le Pescadeux on Urbanspoon
Pure Thai Cookhouse on Urbanspoon

Kin Shop’s Spicy Duck Laab Hits it Out of the Park

Kin Shop is Harold Dieterle’s modern play on Thai classics. Everyone from Serious Eats to The New York Times has praised its food – quite the boon for Dieterle. I don’t care how many Top Chefs you won, if you aren’t Thai and people still like the Thai food you make…you are doing something not only right, but special. 
The first thing he did right was hire an amazing front of house staff. The moment that I walked in (quite a bit early for my reservation), Lawrence treated me like I was the queen of England. He sat me at the bar, spent time discussing what I should get for the meal, and made sure that I never felt awkward or lonely whilst awaiting my dining companion. He didn’t know I was a blogger-I didn’t take any photos of the drink. He didn’t know how much I would be eating. He just knew that I was excited to dine there, and he shared in and increased my enjoyment. From the first, I was inclined to like Kinshop.

  • Fried Pork and Crispy Oyster Salad with celery, peanuts, mint and chili-lime vinaigrette
    If Liza deGuia likes a dish, you just order it. No questions asked. And when she recommended this dish on Twitter, I knew I had to get it. Soft oysters, coated in a feather-light, greaseless batter that crunched through to the sweet, plump oysters – deep and oceanic tasting the way that oysters are. The natural brine in the oysters cut through the crispy pork’s pearly later of unctuous fat, straight to the sweet and salty meat. The celery added a crunchy, herbaceous taste and texture to the decadent dish, and the bright mint and tangy vinaigrette kept it from being too heavy on the palate. This is a must order. 
    Spicy Duck Laab Salad with toasted rice, ground chili and romaine hearts
    Oh. My. Gawd. The best laab I have ever had. EVER. Beat Lotus of Siam by a mile. So bright, so tangy, so fruity-spicy with a heat that prickled behind my lips but never made me cry (so, I mean, it could have been a LITTLE spicier). The duck added a depth of flavor I don’t get from chicken laab. It lent a slightly heartier, wilder taste to the dish – making it not only spicy and fresh but also hearty and fulfilling. The pickled onions on top added the perfect amount of tang and zip. Don’t get this if you don’t like heat. And if you don’t like heat…I just don’t know how to help you. Really, I don’t.
    Triggerfish with Mussels in Green Curry
    One of the night’s specials. The server referred to it as halibut, but this reminded me more of sole or sand dabs. It was quite thin, with a crispy outside and a drier, flakier interior. Pan seared, it had a mild taste that absorbed the lemongrass and other aromatics of the creamy green curry. The mussels were few, but their delicately salty, shellfish flavor seasoned the whole broth. This is a dish for someone who appreciates the subtlety of a well made green curry. It was incredibly complex but not at all in your face or aggressive. It was about the crispy fish, the tender mussels, the balanced sauce. 
    Northern Thai Style Curry Noodle with braised brisket, cucumber, peanuts, fresh herbs
    Their version of Khao Soi was – like many things I ate that night – about balance. Melting cuts of fatty brisket with tart lime. Creamy coconut with the zesty, warming spice of curry. Thick, springy rice noodles with crunchy cucumber and meaty peanuts. Hunks of green vegetables – water spinach, perhaps, or bok choy-that absorbed the meaty, creamy, hearty sauce like a sponge. It made the vegetables meatier and 
    the sauce lighter. Crunchy cucumbers and fresh basil served alongside added a lightness to the dish, and the springy, chewy rice noodles were nothing short of addictive. I could have eaten them plain. The ample serving seemed like too much at first, but…well, we did a pretty good job on it.
    And Dieterle did a pretty GREAT job on Kin Shop. Relaxed atmosphere, casual enough for dinner at the bar or dinner with a date paired with fair prices, an interesting and well executed menu and a fantastic staff. Not just Laurence, the whole staff was kind, efficient, jovial and really added to the meal.

    And for the staff to stand out next to that phenomenal laab….that’s really something.

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