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Rhong-Tiam (formerly Penang)

spchang Feb 19, 2008 02:43 PM

Has anyone been to this Thai place that is on the west side of Washington Square Village? It was formerly Penang and even though it claims to be authentic, I never paid much attention to it until I picked up a take out menu. There are some interesting dishes that are not usually offered. They have a version of Chinese watercress salad (ala Sripraphai) and Yen Ta Fo.

Has anybody tried it yet? I can imagine two possibilities. The more likely one is that it's only okay or you have to beg them to make it thai spicy. The unlikely one is that they are authentic and that they will be closed before too long.

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  1. ephramzz RE: spchang Apr 29, 2008 05:14 PM

    I can't believe there's no posts about Rhong-tiam Thai on Laguardia between Bleecker and W 3rd st. yet! Yelp's kicking our butts on that one with 14 posts about it! C'mon Chowhounders, I expect you to be on the bleeding edge. :-)

    Well, I'll start it off. I went there last night since I found on menupages that they serve Khao Soi (that'll be reviewed on my khao soi blog soon enough), and I was blown away in several meanings of the word!

    This apparently used to be part of the Penang chain of restaurants and is still under the same owner, as evidenced by the chopsticks wrappers that still said Penang on them, and several Malaysian dishes like Mee Goreng and Pineapple Achat that I plan to try when I go back because those are often great and my favorites at other Malaysian restaurants.

    This place has a beautiful setting, and could even by used as a dating kind of place and must be especially nice when you can eat outside on the front deck. It wasn't very packed when I went, but it was late (10 PM) on a rainy Monday night, so not too surprising, and they said they've only been open for 5 months.

    We ordered tofu Khao Soi (of course), Tom Yum Gai (lemongrass soup), and Yum Pla Dook Foo (grated fried catfish and fresh mango, red onion served w/ a sweet lime chili sauce), and fresh lemonade. The food came very quickly and immediately smelled great and looked scrumptious, but soon had us begging for some brown rice to chill out the chili flames burning in our head. I love hot food just as much as the next person, having lived in Peru, home of one of the hottest chilis, the Rocoto tree chili (http://www.thechileman.org/results.ph...), but especially the catfish was smoke-out-of-the-ears inducing, though addictive.

    The crispy fried nutiness of the grated catfish went really well with the tangy juicy green mango salad. The soup though we ordered Tom Yum seemed to come as Tom Kha since it had coconut milk in it but we forgot to ask in our heat-induced trance, and it was delicious anyway with a nice balance of sourness, not overly sweet as this dish often is. The Khao Soi was killer, up there with the best in Manhattan and all of NYC, including all the tasty toppings.

    When I asked the waiter if all their dishes were standardly this hot or if it was just because we asked for more obscure dishes that he thought we'd enjoy the heat, he said they are always like that, and now that I look back at the menu (http://www.menupages.com/screenmenu.a...) I see that the catfish and the Tom Yum are marked as spicy.

    I'd say if we can collective get this placed filled up, that Rhong-Tiam is aiming to be a great, authentic Thai place, definitely the best in Manhattan, and it may even surpass (gasp!) Sripraphai!

    -----
    Rhong-Tiam
    541 LaGuardia Pl, New York, NY 10012

    8 Replies
    1. re: ephramzz
      Jim Leff RE: ephramzz May 14, 2008 02:14 PM

      Weird that there are no follow-ups to such a great posting. Maybe everyone simply went there and ate (in which case I'm wondering why there are no follow-up reports).

      Great job, ephramzz. I also enjoy your blog!

      1. re: Jim Leff
        Miss Needle RE: Jim Leff May 14, 2008 03:06 PM

        Just caught this post now. Thanks, Jim, for bringing it to the head of the boards.

        I love khao soi, and haven't really found a decent place that matched what I had in Chiang Mai. Will definitely order it when I check the place out. Thanks, ephramzz!

        1. re: Jim Leff
          Peter Cuce RE: Jim Leff May 15, 2008 06:51 AM

          There have definitely been other threads about Rhong-Tiam, Jim. I replied to one to let people know to avoid it at lunch time, because I believe the kitchen crew is more paint-by-numbers at that time, and you won't get a good meal except perhaps by mistake.
          BTW, Miss Needle, I like Sripraphai's Khao Soi quite a bit.

          1. re: Peter Cuce
            Miss Needle RE: Peter Cuce May 15, 2008 07:44 AM

            Thanks. I'll try it at Sripraphai as well. I usually get so tempted by the other stuff (jungle curry, soft-shell crabs, drunken noodles, etc.) it's hard to try the other foods.

            1. re: Miss Needle
              Jim Leff RE: Miss Needle May 15, 2008 07:52 AM

              I get into sripraphai ruts, too. solution is to go with a largeish group and don't make suggestions. do that 2-3 times and you can really make inroads into the menu....

              1. re: Jim Leff
                j
                Jorel RE: Jim Leff May 15, 2008 08:05 AM

                I posted my thoughts last week: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/515876

          2. re: Jim Leff
            guttergourmet RE: Jim Leff Jul 26, 2008 05:31 AM

            www.chowhound.com/topics/519015

          3. re: ephramzz
            c
            currymouth RE: ephramzz May 16, 2008 09:57 AM

            Thanks for the excellent review. We have a branch of Penang in central NJ and used to frequent it until several years ago when every dish became so bland . Then we would make a trip into the city and eat at Nyonya, but it too is becoming quite bland to our taste.So I have high hopes for Rhong-Tiam and can' t wait to sample the menu. Thanks again.

          4. ephramzz RE: spchang May 16, 2008 09:38 AM

            I actually went to Rhong-Tiam again last friday and it was excellent once again, though still not so crowded. Rainy still, so I hope that's the only reason, becauseĀ  we've got to get this place filled up to make sure it stays around as a tasty Lower Manhattan Thai place!

            I was taking a friend who's heading to Chiang Mai there, so we had Khao Soi again, eggplant with bamboo shoots (that had Krachai in it http://www.uni-graz.at/~katzer/engl/B..., a bitter ginger relative which I see very rarely in US Thai restaurants), and the Malaysian Pineapple Achat which was great. The Achat, a sort of dry chutney with fresh fruit, is probably a hold over from their Penang days, but nice to see on the menu, super tasty, and the waiter kindly warned me that was a Malaysian dish. They were also very nice when I asked them what the unfamiliar bitter taste in the eggplant was, and the chef himself came out and talked to me about it. I'm not sure I'd order that dish again since I have an aversion to super bitter things (can't drink coffee), but still innovative and someone might like it. It was at least a nice contrast to the sweetness of the Achat.

            I gotta get my review out there since it wasn't so crowded for such a great place on a friday night.

            1. r
              rdc RE: spchang May 16, 2008 10:50 AM

              They had a spicy tasting challenge going on a couple of months ago, I believe. Anyone know if that's been extended beyond the April 15 end-date? My g/f and I wanted to do it but couldn't get our act together in time.

              1. l
                Lau RE: spchang May 16, 2008 04:46 PM

                so ate an early dinner here tonight w/ my GF...bottom line, i agree with the assessments that this place is good. Luckily its close to my place, so long with Zabb City, this is going to be one of my go to thai places

                Here's what we got:
                - roti canai - i know this is a holdover dish from Penang days, but I gotta say that it was very good, roti was nice and crispy and the curry sauce was good. In fact this was better than I've had at any of chinatown malay places
                - papaya salad - this was decent not great, Zabb City's is much better, it was reasonably spicy although i prefer it a bit spicier, it wasn't as sour as Zabb's and I like it more sour (i.e. more pickled tasting) and I believe they may have fish sauce in this dish b/c you could definitely taste something that tasted like fish sauce, the tomatoes and shrimp were good quality which was nice (i hate when they skimp and use crappy ingredients)
                - khao soi - WOW! this was great, the curry soup base was so good, great flavor, not too salty or overflavored with any one ingredient, such a great creamy taste. Loved both the regular and crispy noodles, chicken was so nice and tender. This dish alone is the reason why id come back...just like zabb where i go back for the laab and the papaya salad, i will be coming back to Rhong-Tiam for the Khao Soi

                1 Reply
                1. re: Lau
                  d
                  Dave Feldman RE: Lau May 31, 2008 09:13 PM

                  I just came back from Rhong-Tiam. It's a lovely restaurant but overall I'd have to term it a disappointment.

                  Three of us ordered the roti canai, papaya salad, grilled catfish with Thai Eggplant in Chili sauce, khao soi, and pad see ew (listed as Chow Fun on the menu).

                  I didn't think any of the dishes were unqualified masterpieces. The roti canai and khao soi were marred, I think, by too much coconut milk. There wasn't enough spice (and I'm not referring to heat, here) in the curry sauce; similarly, creaminess was the main impression of the khao soi -- even the pickled vegetables and numerous squirts of lime were enough to provide sufficient acid notes. Both were good, but the khao soi, in particular, I didn't think was exceptional, although the chicken was much better than average.

                  The pad see ew was pronounced "very good" by the ten-year-old, who in the future might start a blog on his quest for this dish. He's rather territorial about his food, so I only got a forkfull.

                  The catfish seems to be grilled and then fried in a wok. There was way too much of one spice element, which had a fennel/anisey taste. Like the papaya salad, it was also too sweet to my taste.

                  Gee, this sounds harsh. I'd definitely go back, but based on the one meal, I don't think Rhong-Tiam was as good as Wondee, let alone Zabb or Sripraphai.

                  This wasn't a unanimous opinion. The other friend, although she was disappointed with the papaya salad and couldn't eat the catfish dish for the reasons I described, she loved the pad se ew, the roti canai, and the khao soi.

                2. ephramzz RE: spchang Jun 25, 2008 12:06 PM

                  Yeah, there's finally a review of Rhong Tiam on the New York Times $25 and under website!
                  Maybe now it'll fill up, but then again, maybe now it'll fill up too much.

                  http://events.nytimes.com/2008/06/25/...

                  1. w
                    Wu_Kong RE: spchang Jun 25, 2008 02:22 PM

                    I've been a fan of this place for a few months now. My favourite dish at Sripraphai is the Pad Krapao Mu (ground pork with basil and diced chili peppers) and it was extremely difficult to find in Manhattan. Yum Thai used to have it in Midtown as an off-the-menu special before they were shut down. Rhong-Tiam does it perfectly -- especially after I get them to crank up the heat. I've also tried the Southern-style Chicken, which is another spicy but flavourful dish. I am impressed with the variety and daring of their menu.

                    1. l
                      Lau RE: spchang Jul 25, 2008 07:05 PM

                      so i ate dinner here again tonight...i think it was the best trip ever so far

                      here's what we got:
                      - roti canai: awesome again, probably best rendition in the city...curry sauce is particularly good
                      - papaya salad: not bad, but zabb's is way better...this one is a little too sweet and not spicy enough
                      - khao soi: amazing again, just as good as last time and as the other reviews say
                      - omelette: this was an omelette made up of egg and clear noodles and then i believe pan fried and comes with a tangy mildly spicy sauce. it tasted fairly good with the black pepper steak, but i was a little disappointed as i thought it was a bit heavy and too oily
                      - black pepper steak: this was good, beef that was probably cooked in a walk in a black pepper sauce with tons of onions and peppers...very good sauce, i wouldve liked the beef to be a little more tender, but my gf and other friend loved it

                      again this is a solid restaurant and damn it go way popular there is a fairly large wait now and the whole restaurant was packed and buzzing, would def recommend making reservations

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Lau
                        k
                        ketkarra RE: Lau Aug 1, 2008 07:59 AM

                        do they call the khao soi something else?

                        1. re: ketkarra
                          ephramzz RE: ketkarra Aug 5, 2008 09:08 PM

                          I believe the Khao Soi is called Chiang Mai noodles or something to that effect with "Khao Soi" in parentheses. But strange, I just checked their menupages page and it's not on there at all, but I saw it there just last Monday when I was at the restaurant. Their own web page doesn't have it either! Hmm, mysterious! I hope they didn't get rid of it for their summer menu or something, it was one of their best dishes there and how I discovered it!

                      2. ephramzz RE: spchang Aug 6, 2008 10:13 AM

                        Rhong Tiam made it into the New Yorker now, pretty favorably. I agree that the Achat and Catfish and Green Mango salad are both great.
                        http://www.newyorker.com/arts/reviews...
                        This place will be overrun soon, get there quick! I guess I got my wish of filling it up to keep it going, but a little too much.

                        8 Replies
                        1. re: ephramzz
                          l
                          Lau RE: ephramzz Aug 6, 2008 08:14 PM

                          i really like rhong tiam, but if you like the papaya salad there you should try it at Zabb City (its much better)...also its already crowded, i went on a friday and there was a pretty big wait

                          1. re: Lau
                            s
                            Simon RE: Lau Aug 6, 2008 11:19 PM

                            i shall check it out and weigh in on this soon...*smiles*...are they open in the afternoon, so one can avoid the waits?...and/or, can you eat at the bar there?

                            1. re: Simon
                              l
                              Lau RE: Simon Aug 7, 2008 05:23 AM

                              well i meant Rhong Tiam is crowded on the weekends now (although that may have to do with the NYT article, so see how long it lasts)

                              you shouln't have a problem w/ a wait at Zabb City...highly recommend the papaya salad and pork labb (get an order of sticky rice) as those two go really well together; other dishes i like are the duck salad, calamari and the isaan sausage appetizer

                              1. re: Lau
                                Bob Martinez RE: Lau Aug 7, 2008 06:41 AM

                                "well i meant Rhong Tiam is crowded on the weekends now (although that may have to do with the NYT article, so see how long it lasts)"

                                Rhong Tiam is on Opentable.com. I used it to make a reservation last Saturday night for 7:00PM with no problems at all.

                                I just checked again. Two tops are available this coming Saturday from 6:45 through 9:15. (There may well be tables available later in the evening. I just stopped checking at that point.)

                                BTW, when I went last Saturday I had the Pork on Fire and made the mistake of ordering it extra spicy. It's a very good dish but the heat was far too high to enjoy it fully. I'll stick to the regulart spicing level next time.

                                1. re: Bob Martinez
                                  l
                                  Lau RE: Bob Martinez Aug 7, 2008 08:12 AM

                                  besides sushi im not used to have to waiting at most non-trendy asian restaurants (with an exception here or there)

                                  i went last friday w/ a party of 3 and had to wait 20 mins (really wasn't expecting to wait) and the wait was worse when i left

                                  1. re: Lau
                                    k
                                    ketkarra RE: Lau Aug 7, 2008 08:38 AM

                                    i went last friday and i was BLOWN away. one of the most inventive (and hot) experiences in nyc. Loved it. Esp loved the Chiang Mai noodle (aka Khao Soi - yes thankfully its still there but missing from the menupages menu!), and the grated catfish mango dish. YUM!!!!!

                                    I would not order alcohol though - because of the heat of the dishes (which i love) wine seemd to burn my palette; beer fared better but honestly, tea or lemonade would have fared best.

                                    1. re: ketkarra
                                      D...DF RE: ketkarra Aug 8, 2008 02:41 PM

                                      Their Young Coconut juice fares especially well in high heat situations.

                                  2. re: Bob Martinez
                                    Bob Martinez RE: Bob Martinez Aug 8, 2008 10:18 AM

                                    For those of you scoring at home on the great "Can't Get In/ CAN Get In" competition I just went up on Opentable.com. You can STILL get a table for 2 at 8:00PM this Saturday night.

                          2. sing me a bar RE: spchang Aug 7, 2008 11:26 AM

                            Given that it was written up in The New Yorker this week, I hope anyone going is ready for a wait. Food service was at a snail's pace BEFORE the article. It took over 50 minutes once, so I can only imagine what one would find these days. That's not even considering the wait for a table. The staff means well, but the crew seems to be in suspended animation in the kitchen.

                            8 Replies
                            1. re: sing me a bar
                              s
                              Simon RE: sing me a bar Aug 7, 2008 11:31 PM

                              Can you eat the bar at Rhong Tiam?...

                              1. re: Simon
                                ephramzz RE: Simon Aug 8, 2008 09:51 AM

                                That's a good question, Simon. I've never been there when it's crowded enough to require that (before the reviews, and late on a Monday night), but I assume they'd be fine with that since they are very accomodating in my experience. There are only 3-4 seats at the bar however.

                                I think someone said that it's a different chef for lunch, so possibly not as good as dinners, so make a reservation and go early or late.

                                So glad to hear they still server Khao Soi, my favorite dish! I just called to double check that it wasn't a heat-induced mirage I saw last time I was there, and they said they definitely still have it. They better since it was mentioned in both the NY TImes and New Yorker review!

                                1. re: ephramzz
                                  l
                                  lankyFool RE: ephramzz Aug 8, 2008 07:34 PM

                                  Lunch at Rhong Tiam is appalling. Had a great dinner there a couple of weeks ago but the lunch is sub-par even by the standards of Thai food in Manhattan. Their set lunch includes a bizarrely tasteless watery soup, cold spring rolls, a mayonnaise laced salad and crappy renditions of Americanized Thai food such as chicken in spicy basil sauce. Definitely not the same chef as the night time guy (unless he's a schizophrenic).

                                  1. re: lankyFool
                                    s
                                    Simon RE: lankyFool Aug 8, 2008 09:31 PM

                                    i'm glad you posted this before i had to...

                                    i was in the neighborhood round noon so tried the lunch as a "target of opportunity"..."appalling" is the right word...a disgusting lunch that wouldn't pass muster in an American universtity cafeteria...the spring rolls were starchy frozen-tasting crap, the salad was the a jr-high-hamburger-dressing's worth of shredded lettuce&pale-tomato w/ a blob of mayonnaise, and the gai prig king was salty bland junk (despite an in-Thai request to make it spicy, authentic, etc)...

                                    it's certainly plausible, as suggested here, that Rhong Tiam is serving the good stuff at dinner and using lunch as a shoddy way of turning a buck off folks who'd be just as happy eating sweet&sour pork w/ the same frozen eggroll and calling it "Chinese food" instead of "Thai"...

                                    Do they serve great Thai food at dinner?...i have no idea...but given the ridiculously bad lunch, i have no intention of returning to this restaurant ever...any restaurant that puts "authentic thai" on their window and serves such awful mush does not deserve a second chance

                                    1. re: Simon
                                      sing me a bar RE: Simon Aug 8, 2008 09:46 PM

                                      A friend wanted to try it for lunch, but I told them that we'll go at dinner if we go at all. I explained this weird syndrome where whoever is cooking lunch is not the guy earning kudos from Bruni or the New Yorker.

                                      1. re: Simon
                                        squid kun RE: Simon Aug 10, 2008 02:38 AM

                                        Hey, we've been warned.

                                        A dependable poster urged us three months ago to avoid this place at lunchtime, both earlier in this thread and in another ... http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5154... .

                                        And his warning was picked up in the Chow Digest ... http://www.chow.com/digest/5560

                                2. re: sing me a bar
                                  sing me a bar RE: sing me a bar Aug 8, 2008 02:43 PM

                                  The "bar" is really where they answer the phone and tally bills. There's no way one could eat there, from my observation. There isn't really even room to drink, given the computer's size and how busy and full of staff it is in that space.

                                  1. re: sing me a bar
                                    s
                                    Simon RE: sing me a bar Aug 8, 2008 09:37 PM

                                    yeah, i saw the space today...but given how disgustingly bad my lunch was, i have no intention of going back, even if they had a bar serving free drinks...

                                3. bigjeff RE: spchang Sep 3, 2008 09:09 PM

                                  after reading all the buzz (pork on fire, various ny media coverage), gave it a whirl tonight, albeit an incomplete one. we had all salads and light foods: chicken larb, beef salad and shrimp w/ fruit salad. the space itself is nice, it was decently packed, the plates and silverware looked nice, but the food was disappointing. and you might think, well, I didn't get any of the big main dishes, but I've had similar meals composed of all salads at chao thai, sri, etc. and they were way better, in particular chao thai.

                                  first, all were marked spicy and, granted that i've been on a total chili kick the past few months (eating raw birds eye chilis w/ my indian food, raw jalapenos w/ my mexican, raw korean peppers w/ my korean food) but this food registered extremely mild for me, and even for my dining companion, and she doesn't usually eat spicy food. so, that was weak.

                                  the best of the 3 was the fruit salad with grilled shrimp (2). fruit selection was great, the lime herb dressing was nice and, overall just nice and fresh. the other two salads were way too sweet; very heavily strewn w/ herbs which was nice, but basically, sticky sweet and definitely restaurant-ized in some way (just a big jumble of ingredients, served in lettuce cups which couldn't be used as lettuce cups because they were dripping w/ sugar water), as opposed to the very clean and fresh renditions I've had of both types of this salad at other thai joints, where you can taste the individual flavors of each ingredient in each bite, even if they are all mixed together. I can only imagine the papaya or green mango would have tasted exactly like these salads, just a general muddled flavor, not clean (but not greasy, just . . indistinct). the plates were also quite shallow and given the amount of sugar water left on the platters (which our host almost dribbled all over my arm when clearing the plates), they need to either rethink their plates or go easy on the liquid.

                                  of course, many of the other dishes were quite beautiful and I'm actually interested in all of the "herbal" dishes that are on the menu; they had them as soups, curries and other dishes; I'm curious to the flavor but for something as basic to thai cuisine as larb and these types of salads, I'm disappointed.

                                  seeing some of the comments on these boards, I may have to go to Zabb City for some nice salads, yes?

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: bigjeff
                                    m
                                    maggiej RE: bigjeff Sep 4, 2008 04:57 AM

                                    Zabb City is fabulous. Recently took my brother who lived in Thailand for a year and he deemed it quite authentic Issan food. We've really enjoyed everything we've had there, especially the warm salads.

                                    1. re: bigjeff
                                      l
                                      Lau RE: bigjeff Sep 4, 2008 10:19 AM

                                      well read some of my posts on Zabb City, i think the papaya salad at Zabb City is much much better than Rhong Tiam; also really like the duck apple salad....that said I think some of the main dishes such as khao soi are really very good, but i've had some dishes which i also thought were whatever like the omelette

                                      here is one of my zabb city reports:
                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/521371

                                    2. thew RE: spchang Sep 4, 2008 05:29 AM

                                      i love rhong tiam
                                      here is a review i wrote for another web site:
                                      have i told you guys about "johnny cash ass?"

                                      it's that feeling you get when sitting on the throne the next day after a spicy dinner... you know "burning ring of fire"

                                      well it was me and the man in black this morning - and i have no regrets.

                                      ok, i have had spicier food, but rarely have i had such well balanced flavor and heat. this was some of the best thai food i have ever eaten, and that includes in thailand, where i have spent a fair amount of time over the years.

                                      the only thing that fell a little short was the decor, but the food was so stellar there is no loss of a star for that.

                                      3 of us went, one didn't eat red meat, so i can't speak to the meaty meat end of the spectrum, but we did have chicken and seafood dishes.

                                      we had-

                                      appys -

                                      Thai Nachos: minced shrimp and chicken in coconut dipping served with crispy shrimp chips

                                      ok it isn't nachos, and the name is kinda stupid, but this dipping sauce was orgasmically good. a light balance of flavors, oils and spices. as soon as we tasted this we knew we were in for something special

                                      Roti Canai: crispy and doughy indian style pancake served with curry sauce this is a holdover from when this was the malaysian restaurant penang - but damn it was good. a nice coconutty curry, with a greasy yummy roti to dip in it

                                      Crispy Catfish With Green Mango Salad: grated fried catfish with spicy green mango lime sauce

                                      ok this stuff sounds weird, and was not what i was guessing it would be ( i thought it would be a patty like in "no name", or a crab cake) what it was was a salad exactly like an excellent green papaya salad (bitd before green papyaas were allowed to be imported into the US to protect the hawaiian trade all american som tam was made with green mango instead) as good as the salad from the guy on ko samui i still dream of today, served with fish that has been grated and deep fried to a crisp, the texture of baked or fried panko, to give a crouton like crunch on top of the salad. it looked weird, it tasted amazing!!!!!!

                                      Tom Yum w/ - shrimp : this was not the traditional tom yam it was a like a halfway between tom yum and tom kha, with a coconut flavor in a creamy broth, rather than the traditional red clear tom yum. again an amazing delicate balance of flavors and heat. i could live on this shit.

                                      mains -

                                      Water Spinach On Fire w/ mixed seafood: wok sauteed asian water spinach with garlic and fresh chili in a bean sauce

                                      my least favorite thing of the night, which means it was just merely excellent and not pants droppingly amazing.

                                      Two In Love: minced shrimp and chicken wok sauteed bamboo shoot and basil sauce tossed with aromatic crispy basil

                                      yum and yay. very spicy with crispy fried holy basil leaves scattered on top. one bite of this and i was immediately transported back to a thai beach somewhere.

                                      B.B.Q. Chicken: marinated lemongrass chicken bbq grilled to perfection served with "jeaw" and sweet plum sauce

                                      3 sauces on one plate.. and each better than the next. the lemongrass/ nam pla reduction the chicken was marinated in. very yum. the plum sauce. also very yum. the jeaw - OMFG this was amazing. my BF (best friend, not boy friend) ricky said it was the most different flavors in one place he has ever tasted (and he has wandered the globe w/me). amazing rich mix of flavors, that somehow manage to neither meld together, nor clash. i had to look up a recipe online for it as soon as i got home, and plan on digging through my thai cook books later (http://importfood.com/...

                                      )

                                      we had the thai ice tea creme brulee for dessert. somewhat underwhelming - not bruleed enough for my taste, but decent if you though of it more as a mousse/custard. but by that point i was so freakin happy, and my brain was doing such an endorphin dance that it couldn't hurt my experience in any way.

                                      i did not have the kow soi, my favorite northern thai dish, or the pork on fire, which seems to be their signature dish - but i assure that i will be back very soon to check it out. very very soon.

                                      it is rare to have a new bestest favorite for a standby like thai, but there it is. here it is. there i go. hello. here i am.

                                      1. c
                                        cimui RE: spchang Oct 5, 2009 01:43 PM

                                        Update: Rhong TIam still seems to be doing alright by itself more than a year after opening. We ordered about ten dishes, including drunken noodles, duck bun, kari sayur, pad see eew, pad prig king, ... and a few others, including roti canai, which I sadly didn't have a chance to try.

                                        I love that in general, flavors coming out of this kitchen are very bright and that the restaurant doesn't skimp on, or skip, the harder to find herbs and spices. Interestingly for a Thai restaurant, my favorite dish was the Malaysian kari sayur, which was nuanced and not overly creamy. (Maybe it was a bit unusual to find broccoli in the dish, but it was delicious.) The duck bun was also a nice surprise, a good combination of crunchy / soft and great flavors, all tucked inside a white mantou-like bun. The bun, which I only took a small bite of, was slightly rubbery, probably evidence that it was heated in a microwave, but this was forgivable in light of the many merits. Noodle dishes were very salty (and this is coming from a great lover of NaCl!) though otherwise nicely done.

                                        Next time I want to try a few of the salads and duck preparations. The versions I spied going to other tables looked and smelled great!

                                        9 Replies
                                        1. re: cimui
                                          Bob Martinez RE: cimui Oct 5, 2009 02:27 PM

                                          Interesting you brought up Rhong-Tiam. I like it fine but consider it a very good neighborhood place. Today Michelin gave it a star.
                                          http://ny.eater.com/archives/2009/10/...

                                          What's even more interesting is that Sripraphai, which previously had been on Michelin's Bib Gourmond list ("the restaurant is an inspector's favorite for good value,") has been dropped this year.
                                          http://www.michelinguide.com/us/ny_bi...

                                          So Michelin says that Rhong-Tiam is a great Thai restaurant and Sripraphai doesn't rate at all.

                                          1. re: Bob Martinez
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                                            Lau RE: Bob Martinez Oct 5, 2009 05:39 PM

                                            haha i think michelin has very little crediability when it comes to asian food...their guide in HK got panned for basically playing up any fancy french / italian restaurant in HK while missing all the great spots in HK

                                            they pay heavy attention to service and decor (along with the food) from what i can tell, which automatically kills most asian restaurant as there is little emphasis on the former, but strong emphasis on the later

                                            1. re: Lau
                                              c
                                              cimui RE: Lau Oct 5, 2009 06:20 PM

                                              I do wonder if the Michelin critics were grasping about for some sort of token non-Western European restaurant to star... and the Ouija board landed on Rhong Tiam.

                                              [And Sushi of Gari gets one star, but there's no mention of Yasuda, Kuruma Zushi, 15 East or Masa? OTOH, I'm glad Soto received some recognition.]

                                              1. re: cimui
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                                                Simon RE: cimui Oct 6, 2009 08:02 PM

                                                haha, agreed....the day i trust Michelin for Asian food ratings is the day i stop eating...

                                                i'd like to see the Michelin folk try to stomach half an order of the crap Rhong Tiam serves up on their lunch menu, which is less palatable than the Chinese-American food a jr high school in Kansas might attempt...obviously, the Mich folk are clueless and grasping for diversity...

                                                1. re: Simon
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                                                  ian9139 RE: Simon Oct 6, 2009 08:52 PM

                                                  Is the food really not as good for lunch?
                                                  I had the pork on fire (not on the lunch menu) a while ago and it may have not been as good as at dinner, but all I could taste was spice. I don't think it is really supposed to have nuanced flavors, at least for my non-thai taste-buds (tho this improving), so I could not tell.

                                                  1. re: Simon
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                                                    cimui RE: Simon Oct 6, 2009 10:15 PM

                                                    Oh dear... I didn't mean to convey that Rhong Tiam is awful at all. Quite the contrary. I enjoyed my meal there very much, but just don't think it's on par with some of the other one-star Michelin restaurants. Sorry if I overstated my opinion.

                                                    I actually have had lunch at Rhong Tiam (tho on a weekend, not weekday, if that makes a difference). I didn't notice a difference in quality.

                                              2. re: Bob Martinez
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                                                cimui RE: Bob Martinez Oct 5, 2009 06:16 PM

                                                Very odd. But I often disagree with the Michelin star ratings, at least in NYC.

                                                1. re: Bob Martinez
                                                  thew RE: Bob Martinez Oct 5, 2009 06:26 PM

                                                  crap. i was gonna turn someone on to them on fri night. now it will be really packed

                                                  1. re: thew
                                                    Bob Martinez RE: thew Oct 5, 2009 06:39 PM

                                                    You could always "settle" for Sriprphai.

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