Brief review -- Land Thai (UWS)
At the advice of some friends, I checked out Land Thai (Amsterdam 81/82) last night, to my great disappointment. I had already read the mixed reviews by NYT and NYP wishing for more spice and less sweet, and they pretty much nail it on the head. Here's what I had:
Mixed appetizer (veggie dumplings + various fried foods, with 3 dipping sauces). This was pretty bland, with the fried offerings being savory but uninspired, and the dumpling being too sweet. On top of that, one of the sauces is basically soy sauce + sugar, which doesn't help. The other is a creamy and sweet yogurt type sauce (for some reason), and a weak cucumber-rice-vinegar-dill-red-pepper sauce that needs more punch.
Drunken noodle was good. At the advice of the Times, I chatted up the waitress, and asked her to make it "hot, like the way Thai people eat it." I even tried schmoozing a bit with the backpacker Thai I picked up in my month or so in Thailand. All in all, this was a very well-made dish, but they were unable to accomodate my request to have this made with rice noodles instead of wheat noodles, not because of any logistical difficulty, but because they were just too busy to go out of their way for anyone. I was told by friends that the noodles were a bit off, and I was told right. It tasted a bit too much like pasta. They also used Italian basil, not Thai basil. On the other hand, it was definitely hot, and I'm usually a person who laughs at any vindaloo sauce.
I was told by friends that the green curry was good, but I didn't get a chance to sample it.
Pad Thai was awful. Although the egg had a nice, smokey flavor to it, it was way too sweet to finish. In fact, there was even some sort of gooey clear sauce in it that was reminiscent of really bad Chinese take-out. Personally, I like a little more crunch in the way of more bean sprouts and peanuts, and room for more good, limey sourness.
Dishes were $9 (noodle) to $15 (more for steak & fish). Value-wise, you can probably do OK at lunch, when there's a bunch of $7 options to choose from.
All in all, you may be able to squeeze an authentic meal out of them, but you shouldn't count on it. The place was packed when I went there (granted, it was Sunday night), and (judging from what they ordered), it seemed like the customers weren't giving them any incentive to Westernize the meals any less than they already have. After all, these guys serve a shell steak, and it seemed to be popular.
450 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10024
I like their $7 two-course lunch deal, but I'm still working my way through the menu, figuring out what to order and what to avoid.
I tried that veggie dumpling--weirdly sweet and rubbery and nothing like I've ever had in Thailand, but I have to say that I enjoyed it.
Som tam was missing the dried mini-shrimp that I like, and could have been spicier, but it was fresh and well-balanced with itself.
Tom kha gai was awful. It was basically watered down coconut milk with a few mushrooms and dried out pieces of chicken breast floating in it.
Drunken noodles were fiery and greasy in a nice way. I also liked the green curry and the sauteed beef with basil.
It's usually not so crowded at lunch on weekdays, and $7 is hard to beat.
re: Tom Meg
Please keep us up to date if other good finds emerge from this place. Normally, if I'm in a neighborhood, I'd rather pick the better restaurant over the particular genre of food I'm craving, but sometimes, that just doesn't work. I live in Harlem, and the only option up here, Blue Angel, gets an A for effort (and the mee krop), but is otherwise no different than Lemongrass Grill.