Kate, the owner of Thai Select, invited me and my wife into the restaurant for a press meal to sample, and yammer about, some of their delicious menu selections.
I nearly got killed by three people going about 40mph on bicycles getting that shot, so please take the time to appreciate it more than usual. It was partially my fault, as I wasn’t watching where I was walking, but whatever. Bicycles still suck.
Anyway this joint is located in the heart of what I am now calling Thai Town in NYC. That’s 9th avenue from the 30s through the 50s. There are TONS of Thai joints on that stretch, and competition is pretty fucking fierce! There are lots of good places to dine here, and also lots of shitty ones as well. You need to know which is which, and that’s what I’m here for.
Thai Select is one of the good ones. In fact, it’s probably one of the best. The inside is decorated with a lounge-like atmosphere, with exposed brick, a long bench seat with two-top tables going along the entirety of the wall.
There’s a bar on the opposite end that goes about a third of the length of the entire restaurant. There’s even a back area that is elevated, almost like a stage, for larger groups.
Chef Toni explained that on Friday and Saturday nights it gets pretty jammed. This was a Monday at 6pm, so we had some elbow room to eat, at least for a little while. It did get to nearly full capacity by time we left at around 7:30pm, which is a good sign.
They offer happy hour from 4pm to 7pm, and allow you to take advantage of those deals from your table. $4 beers is a pretty great deal, for one, but there are others as well. We started by sipping on this cocktail made with citron vodka, canton, fresh ginger and lime called the Springter. It was incredibly refreshing and bright.
Chef Toni sat with us and explained some of the new endeavors that Thai Select is undertaking. One is a new healthy menu, where everything is gluten free, no MSG and no saturated fats, and which highlights the health benefits of various Thai herbs and ingredients.
The offerings on this portion of the menu roll out officially next month, and they actually look really good, even the vegetarian stuff!
Chef Toni has been in the restaurant biz for about seven and a half years, and is already juggling two other joints nearby in Thai Town, in addition to this one.
He’s created a menu that is accessible and familiar to people of all cultures, whether it is American, Indian or Latin, in addition to classic Thai dishes and flavor profiles. Everything is made in house from scratch, all the way down to the dumpling wrappers. Toni’s expertise shines in the food. Everything we tasted was really excellent, so let’s get into it:
We started with this bowl of moo dad deaw, or “pork poppers.” This is small bits of pork jerky that are crispy on the outside and served with a spicy, “fire sauce” that reminded me very much of the sauces made in Vietnam for eating with fried foods. It’s like a sri racha, but more orange colored and slightly sweet, as opposed to all spicy.
I couldn’t eat these things fast enough. I ripped through that bowl like nothing. I could eat buckets of this shit. PLEASE – if you like meat snacks of any kind – do yourself a favor and order this when you go. You won’t be disappointed. If this was sold in bags, I’d be stockpiling for armageddon.
Next we tried the peanut dumplings.
These are stuffed with sweet turnip and ground peanut, and served with a sweet soy sauce.
The wrapper had the texture of a really nicely executed dim sum dumpling, but it held up to cutting without falling apart. Really tasty and healthy to boot.
Toni also brought out one of their better selling appetizer items, the crab rangoon.
These are hand made deep fried wanton wrappers filled with whipped cream cheese and crab meat. They were very creamy and soft inside, but crisp on the outside, and came with a light duck sauce for dipping. While I’m generally not a fan of cream cheese with any sort of meat, these were definitely addicting.
The entree I chose was a Bangkok spice pork stir fry wok dish.
It came with fresh peppers (spicy green chili and sweet red bell alike), green beans and onions. And a nice little cone of rice:
This was a really tasty dish. It had the kick that I expect from good Thai food, but without going over the top to blow out my palette.
My wife had what I think was the winning dish of the night. She ordered the pineapple curry duck.
This robust, spicy-yet-sweet curry is one of the best I’ve had. The duck was placed on top, skin side up, to keep all that delicious fried skin good and crispy throughout. This is actually smoked duck from Canada, so there is less chewy fat under the skin than normal.
There is no waste when you eat this – none at all. No bones, no messy picking up and chewing or gnawing through cartilage or fat, and no sticky smelly fingers afterward. It was awesome. And that curry. MAN! Toni should jar it and sell it at grocery stores. It was garnished with red bell peppers, tomato, green beans, fresh basil leaves, bamboo shoots and chunks of pineapple. Killer dish. No wonder why it is another one of their top sellers.
For dessert we had the fried bananas with coconut ice cream, which was drizzled with honey and chocolate syrup, and sprinkled with toasted and untoasted sesame seeds.
The ice cream was good and flavorful without being too sweet, as were the fried banana egg rolls. We washed this down with some ginger tea and Thai iced tea, which was nicely adorned with a straw-wrapper rose:
I love that chai tea flavor with sweet milk. It reminds me of the smell of fresh pipe tobacco for some reason.
That about wraps it up. Hope you enjoyed reading as much as I enjoyed eating. Check this place out when you’re in the area and tell them I sent you.
472 9th Ave.
New York, NY 10018