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!
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.