Tag Archives: thai

Pure Thai Cookhouse

Pure Thai Cookhouse is probably the best Thai restaurant in what I like to refer to as “Thai Town;” the stretch of Thai restaurants from the 40s through the 50s in Hell’s Kitchen.

The place is always jam packed with waits for tables at lunch and dinner time, and we even had to wait 10 minutes to get seated at the odd 2pm time frame (they don’t take reservations). That said, if you decide to come here, be prepared to wait. Also be prepared to sit at a small table, likely on a small stool, and way too close to other diners, as if you were actually eating street food in Thailand. Usually a seating situation like that pisses me off, but I didn’t mind so much at this place.

We started with these crab and chicken dumplings that were on special for $10. They were really nice.

Next up was the Ratchaburi crab and pork dry noodles.

This dish was excellent. The pork itself was so tender and juicy. We were both expecting something dry and tough. The crab was a good portion of quality meat, and the sauce was a delicate balance of sweet and spicy.

I ordered the turmeric beef as my main dish. This came with rice, and it was very tender and flavorful. It looks mega spicy, but it was more like a medium.

My wife ordered the jungle curry, which didn’t seem like a curry dish at all. Our expectation was a saucy dish with a bowl of rice on the side. This came out more like a fried rice dish. Not saucy, but it had really great flavors. We liked this better than the beef.

I definitely recommend this place. Just be ready for a wait and some small seats!

PURE THAI COOKHOUSE
766 9th Ave #2
New York, NY 10019

Fish Cheeks

My wife and I came here for a friend’s birthday lunch. Here’s all the stuff we tried:

DRINKS

Watermelon Spritz: Aylesbury vodka with Aperol, fresh squeezed watermelon juice and Prosecco.

Thai Old Fashioned: Mekhong Thai spirit with Angostura, orange, kaffir lime and spiced chocolate bitters.

APPS

Calamari: fried calamari, cilantro, dried red chili, tamarind and fish sauce glaze.

Zabb Wings: fried chicken wings with chili, lime and mint.

Shrimp in 3 Crabs Sauce: lightly cured raw shrimp with lime juice, garlic, bird’s eye chili and mint.

Yum Som-O: pomelo, cilantro, fried shallot, apple blossom, toasted coconut flakes, peanut and tamarind dressing.

Grilled Pork Cheeks: Compart Duroc pork cheeks served with Jeaw sauce.

Market Oysters: served with fried shallots and nam jim seafood.

ENTREES

Coconut Crab Curry: southern style curry with crab meat and sea beans.

Short Rib Massamun Curry: grass fed short rib braised for 12 hours, potatoes and peanuts.

Crab Fried Rice: crab, rice, egg, scallion, cilantro and cucumber served with nam jim seafood and prik nam pla.

Steamed Fish with Thai Herbs: whole striped bass, chili, lime, mint, cilantro, cilantro and lemongrass broth.

Seafood Pad Cha: stir fried shrimp, scallop, squid, wild ginger, green peppercorn, basil, string beans and Thai eggplant.

SIDES

String Bean & Pork Cracklings: sautéed with dried chili and garlic.

Sautéed Cabbage: with garlic and fish sauce.

Spicy Corn: with grape tomatoes and string beans.

DESSERTS

Sticky Rice & Mango:

Coconut Ice Cream:

Okay, so that would be a shitload of dishes to review individually. I can tell you honestly that every single dish I had here was incredible, and that’s even including the vegan and vegetarian dishes. My favorites were the calamari, wings, shrimp in 3 crabs sauce, pork cheeks, crab fried rice, steamed fish, seafood pad cha and beef curry.

FISHCHEEKS
55 Bond St
New York, NY 10012

Thaimee at McCarren

Restaurateur and food scene influencer Matt Bruck recently partnered with Chef Hong Thaimee to open Thaimee at the McCarren Hotel.

The restaurant is bright, spacious and gorgeous, with open-kitchen views into the back so you feel like you are part of the action.

The bar is a beautiful, orchid-spotted stretch with seating for about 10 people that boasts a flavorful and inspired cocktail menu, as well as some choice wines and sake.

From what I understand, the cocktail menu is currently expanding as well, so there will be even more to choose from.

The food menu is well-crafted: not too extensive, and not too small. And with Chef Hong back there doing her thing, each dish is executed with precision and perfection.

Since we tried a bunch of stuff here, I will get right down to business.

Caveat: this place has seen some buzz regarding their magic color-changing noodles.

Although I was interested to see them in action, I felt like those babies were all over Instagram already, so I wanted to try some stuff that no one else has reviewed.

Crab Cake: Beautifully presented and packed a lot of great flavor.

Tom Yum Soup: Easily one of the better versions of this Thai classic that I’ve ever tried. Tangy and robust.

Rabbit & Noodles: Perfectly cooked and tender. The batter is thick – puffy and soft on the inside, but crisp on the outside. A big winner.

Fried Ribs: Excellent. This is a must-have dish when you come here. They’re crispy, juicy and tasty. Also a big winner.

Squash Curry: As a meat man, I was surprised at how much I liked this squash dish. It was filling, satisfying, and packed with delicious Thai style curry flavors. It’s also incredibly beautiful.

Dumplings: These babies are so colorful and tasty. Veggie and peanut filling, topped with coconut and chili oil. Colors and fillings may change daily.

Thai Basil Scrambled Egg: So simple but so perfectly executed and delicious. I highly recommend this for the table.

Pumpkin Donuts: These are great for sharing at the table as well. They’re heavier than classic fried donuts, so they will chip away at your hunger and satisfy you.

Pomelo Salad: Tart, refreshing, and well balanced, this is a great way to open up your taste buds or cleanse your palette between courses.

Pad Thai Carbonara: This is hands-down the best Pad Thai I’ve ever had. There are chunks of thick cut bacon and a raw egg yolk to mix in. It really works! And the presentation is fun too. We picked shrimp as our main protein.

Chocolate Chili Souffle: I’m not a huge chocolate enthusiast, but I liked the hit of chili on top. It made this dessert pop.

Pumpkin Flan: Very smooth, and really nice flavors. I liked the candied pumpkin seeds and crispy squash on top as garnish.

I think that about does it. You should definitely get over here for the rabbit, the ribs, the squash, the soup, and especially the Pad Thai. You won’t be disappointed.

THAIMEE AT MCCARREN
160 N 12th St
Brooklyn, NY 11249

Wondee Siam II

Thai Town (Hell’s Kitchen) delivers again with Wondee Siam II. I believe there are three of four restaurants with the same name, but I’ve only been to two of them. This one, like the other, is good.

We started with Thai iced tea and Thai iced coffee. Addicting as fuck.

Then we had this really interesting ground shrimp, pork and crab meat thing. It was deep fried in a tofu skin wrapper (contrary to popular belief, I love tofu skin)

My wife had this delicious crispy duck salad dish – clearly the winner of the day.

I had a wide noodle dish with chicken and mixed veggies. Hit the spot.

WONDEE SIAM II
813 9th Ave
New York, NY 10019

David Burke at Bloomingdale’s

My wife picked up a Gilt City deal for David Burke’s joint at Bloomingdale’s. I noticed some nice looking sandwiches, a decent looking burger, and a hanger steak on the menu, so I was psyched to try it out.

Unfortunately, the special menu for the flash deal eliminated all of the things I was interested in trying: pastrami sandwich, French dip, burger, and hanger steak frites. But not to worry! This deal actually supplied us with a LOT of food, and, contrary to out last experience with a Burke joint (Fabrick), the food here was really good.

They start you with warm cheddar popovers. I can eat a basket full of them. Very tasty.

I ordered the grilled tofu Thai peanut salad to start (please don’t kill me). It was actually really good! It had an acidic pop to it from the various citrus and fish sauce additives, and good texture from the jicama and cabbage slaw.

My wife had the tomato soup, which was velvety smooth, topped with a Peter North -like splash of basil oil, and accompanied by a miniature grilled cheese sandwich.

For my entree, I had the grilled salmon.

It was cooked to a nice medium temperature, and it sat on a bed of slaw that was similar to my starter salad, only heavier on the slaw component as opposed to the lettuce. It also had a pop of cumin in it that altered the flavor profile a bit. The salmon skin had a great crisp to it as well.

My wife had chicken Milanese; breaded and fried tender chicken cutlet, topped with arugula and shaved Parmesan cheese, and garnished with grape tomatoes and lemon wedges.

There was a nice tomato-based sauce underneath too, but just the right amount so that nothing got soggy or smothered.

For dessert, I had this chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream. I usually don’t go for chocolate cakes, but this was delicious.

My wife had the sorbet with fresh fruit. Really nice, actually, when you mixed both desserts together for a bite.

If you can still find this deal online, I recommend it. While they severely limit the menu on you, what you do get is good quality and a lot of it. You’l leave full, and with a feeling that you got a good deal.

DAVID BURKE AT BLOOMINGDALES
1000 3rd Ave
New York, NY 10022

Chai Thai Kitchen

My wife and I came in here for a quick meal after passing by for two years and wondering if it was any good. The quick verdict: it was!

We started with these sweet chicken and peanut dumplings.

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I don’t mean “sweet” in the way a dude would say after waking up with an awesome tattoo after a drunk night out.

I mean “Sweet” in the actual flavor sensation. The peanuts had an almost honey roasted type of sweetness to them.

My wife nabbed this spicy coconut chicken curry noodle dish, which was topped with crispy fried “bird’s nest” noodles as well. Usually these dishes are way too “sweet” for me, but this was really good.

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It came with rice (unless that was my dish that came with rice?), but might have benefitted from a hunk of French bread for dipping. But I think that’s more of a Vietnamese thing than a Thai thing.

I went with a dish that really jumped off the menu at me, because it reminded me of the fried whole fish we had in Vietnam that I loved so much.

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The reason why is because of the sauce that comes with it. It’s fish sauce, spiced up with cilantro, peppers red onions and scallions.

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The fish was fried to a perfect golden crisp, and the bones were pretty easy to maneuver for the most part.

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The meat was tender, juicy and soft on the inside, and crispy on the outside – just how I like it.

Oh and one of the cool things about this joint is a nice pond up front that circulates water around and has little floating flowers.

CHAI THAI KITCHEN
930 8th Ave
New York, NY 10019

Wondee Siam

Once of the mainstays in Thai Town is Wondee Siam. This place has multiple locations, actually.

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My coworker and I came here, to the 9th Avenue and 52nd Street location, for a quick $8 lunch during a slow day at work. Each lunch special comes with a pair of vegetable spring rolls to start.

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Not bad. Good crisp, not too oily, but just a bit too temperature hot. Careful you don’t burn your mouth.

I got the pad see ew, which I believe is commonly referred to as “drunken noodle.” It is a wide, flat noodle, stir fried with Chinese broccoli and tossed with a choice of protein. I went with chicken.

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This was pretty good! For $8 you really can’t go wrong. The sauce clung to the noodles and chicken, the dish was not greasy, and the broccolini was cooked properly. I’d hit this joint again most definitely.

My coworker, however, might not be as keen on returning. He ate the pad thai, and said he shit his brains out promptly upon returning to the office. Oh well. I was fine.

WONDEE SIAM
792 9th Ave
New York, NY 10019

Bangkok Cuisine

Is it just me, or is Thai food in NYC starting to all blend together into an incoherent, blurry amalgam of “sweet coconut this,” or “spicy curry that?” I live right near what I like to call “Thai Town,” a strip of dozens of Thai restaurants that run up 9th avenue from the upper 30’s to the upper 50’s in Hell’s Kitchen. One or two joints stand out there as being different and good, but largely it’s all the same Americanized, overly sweet, unbalanced bullshit but with a different name slapped on the facade outside. The interiors even start to look and feel the same. Dim lighting, bamboo everywhere, and a subtle yet obnoxious house music beat relentlessly thumping in the back of your brain for the entirety of the meal. I know you’ve experienced this, and no matter how much X you drop beforehand, it just won’t work while you’re trying to fucking eat. Is this the perception of Thai culture and cuisine that we have here in America, to which Thai restaurants feel they must cater in order to draw in customers? If so, we need to change it, ASAP.

Stepping into Bangkok Cuisine on the upper east side was a refreshing change from that cookie-cutter Thai experience.

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The space is bright, elegant and classy, with a gorgeous emerald Buddha as the centerpiece and focal point of the restaurant. It almost has a museum-esque quality to it, with high luxury style marble under foot and ornate chandeliers over head.

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Hap, son of the chef and owner, invited me in for a press meal. He runs the joint and takes pride in the decor choices he made when designing the restaurant a year ago. He did a great job. I knew just from the decor alone that I was about to get into something very different and unique here when it came to the actual food.

This place is a perfect spot for a date, but it also has appeal to everyday neighborhood diners who want a great meal in a beautiful setting. It doesn’t hurt that the prices are very fair as well. During lunch hours (even on weekends) you can score a three course meal for just $9 or $10. That’s pretty much unheard of these days.

The bar is nice too, with cocktails inspired by Thai spice and herb flavors, and fresh exotic fruits.

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Okay so let me get to the food. Hap suggested we try some of their best and most popular items, to get a good feel for his dad’s cooking style and the diversity of the menu.

First were the chicken lettuce wraps, with minced curried chicken, carrots, celery, shredded beet and cashews.

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These were super light and healthy; a great way to start the meal without going heavy. The curried chicken was a nice change-up from what I usually expect in a lettuce wrap. It was almost like a Thai or Indian taco, if you will. The beets added a nice contrast of color with that pop of red, and the iceberg lettuce added a great textural element of crunch to the tender minced chicken.

Next were the BBQ pork skewers. These were my absolute favorite of the starters.

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They were sweet, spicy, sticky and super tender. The spice/sweet balance struck here was right on the money, and the sticky and tangy sauce on top really fueled my addiction to these. With fresh cut herbs sprinkled over the top of these warm skewers, the air all around the table was filled with some incredible, mouth watering aromas. When you come here, these are absolutely a must-order.

Hap also brought out a small sample size of two other popular apps for us. First was the Thai crepe, a thin, wide, flat, homemade steamed rice noodle wrapped around chicken, shallots and peanuts.

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This is similar in form to Vietnamese banh cuon, which my wife and I love. The flavors here are a bit different though, as they are sweet rather than tangy, and more peanut-forward than the Vietnamese dish. These are nice and light, and very healthy.

The second sampler app was the five-star Thai dumplings. These may look like Chinese dumplings, but they taste very different.

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They have Thai-spiced chicken and shrimp inside, and are served with a sesame and soy dipping sauce.

We tried three entrees from the special chef’s tasting portion of the menu, all at Hap’s suggestion and based on popularity and his personal preferences.

The first was this stuffed salmon with panang curry.

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First off, this was absolutely stunning to look at.  It’s pan-roasted salmon with crab meat and shrimp stuffing, green beans, bok choy, peppers, carrots and onions in a thick and rich panang curry sauce. The sauce here, again, displays Bangkok Cuisine’s amazing ability to properly balance sweet and spicy. One could easily just spoon the curry up and eat it like a thick soup. And the salmon itself was cooked to perfection, with what was essentially a really good shrimp and crab cake added in the mix. It’s no wonder that this is one of their signature and most popular dishes. Absolutely delicious.

Our second entree was volcano duck.

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This is a crispy, boneless half duck served atop tempura carrots and celery, and topped with a fluffy egg and homemade chili flake sauce (pad pong karee). Just to beautify the plate even more, there are a pair of fried lotus root slices on top. The dish consists of traditional Thai ingredients that have been treated in non-traditional ways. For example, the duck is prepped and cooked in a notably French style, with butter under the skin to get a certain level of crisp before finishing, as opposed to just frying the fucker to holy hell. I haven’t seen or tasted anything like it here in the city. The duck itself was amazing. Tender, flavorful and with super crispy skin. And the fluffy egg on top lent a flavorful soft texture to offset the crisp of the duck.

The final entree was a true test of Thai food mettle: Pad Thai.

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But this is no ordinary Pad Thai. This is seafood tom yum inspired Pad Thai. The sautéed rice noodles are adorned with shrimp, squid, scallops, mussels, eggs, peanuts, carrots, bell peppers, scallions and bean sprouts, all deftly tossed with just the right coating of a hot and sour lemongrass “tom yum soup” flavored sauce. Again; a very unique take on a classic Thai dish. It reminded me of the way this noodle dish my wife and I had in Hoi An, Vietnam captured the characteristic flavors of pho in a sauce for a non-soupy noodle dish.

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Each bite of seafood was cooked just right. All tender, and nothing overcooked, whatsoever. What really got me, though, was the perfectly dressed noodles. Lots of times Pad Thai comes to you all watery and soupy. I hate that! This had just the right amount of sauce coating the noodles, and that helped make the noodles slightly sticky, so that all the spices and accompaniments clung to the noodles just so. This made it easy to pick up with chopsticks and stuff down my throat. If Pad Thai is your go-to dish when eating Thai, you won’t be disappointed with this. It brilliantly marries two very popular Thai dishes (Pad Thai and Tom Yum), executed perfectly.

Unfortunately at this point we were too full for dessert. But I will definitely be back to try the whole fried snapper, lamb chops and drunken noodles, for sure. They looked great on the menu.

I highly recommend this place, and even if you’re not regularly spending time on Manhattan’s upper east side, it’s certainly worth a trip up to the neighborhood.

BANGKOK CUISINE
1586 2nd Ave
New York, NY 10028

Zabb Elee

This Thai joint serves up “isan” style Thai food, which is generally saltier, spicier and more pungent with ingredients like fish sauce than the typical sweet Thai places you see around town. They still serve up an amazing sweet Thai iced tea, though:

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This first plate is crispy beef with a tangy hot sauce. These were very similar to the dish I tried at Thai Select in Thai Town.

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The Tom Yum soup was very good. It had a great acid base from the tomatoes, and it was spicy. The mix of seafood was fish balls, shrimp and squid.

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Below was a crispy pork belly dish. This was heavily fish-sauced and spicy. It was really nice.

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This platter below contained various meats, like head cheese, crispy pork, pork rinds, noodles and cabbage.

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ZABB ELEE
75 2nd Ave.
New York, NY 10003

Thai Select

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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These are stuffed with sweet turnip and ground peanut, and served with a sweet soy sauce.

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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.

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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.

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The entree I chose was a Bangkok spice pork stir fry wok dish.

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It came with fresh peppers (spicy green chili and sweet red bell alike), green beans and onions. And a nice little cone of rice:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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I love that chai tea flavor with sweet milk. It reminds me of the smell of fresh pipe tobacco for some reason.

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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.

THAI SELECT
472 9th Ave.
New York, NY 10018