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Pam Real Thai

i just went to Pam Real Thai on 49th street this week after reading such good reviews of the place in the past (although i can't seem to find them now on chowhound). i was pretty disappointed. maybe i've been spoiled by sripraphai, but i thought Pam REal was pretty average. they weren't terrible, but i wouldn't make a special effort to go there again.

my dining mate and i shared a fried taro-root cube appetizer. t hat was pretty tasty, actually. and then your standard green papaya salad, which was pretty standard, but definitely no spiciness in it.

entrees -- green curry with overcooked dry chicken. the curry itself was pretty OK, nothign special.
and one on the "chef's recommendations" list -- sauteed fish fillet with veggies, which was deep friend nuggets of fish fillet (i.e., NOT fresh fish!), and sauteed chopped bokchoy with garlic, which i could have made myself at home.

overall, it was an OK restaurant. i'd probably go back if i lived in the neighborhood, but since i have Pongsri in Chinatown nearby me, i'll just stick with Pongsri.

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  1. never understood why this place got rave reviews....i had the same mediocre assessment as you

      1. re: cimui

        i think it gets good reviews b/c it may be better than most of the ones on 9th Ave but that isn't saying much. One of my foodie friends took us for dinner there after the theater several yrs ago. i wasn't blown away then and was surprised that he recommended it so highly b/c he really knows food. i;ve been to pam real thai encore twice over the past few months. thought it was good but wouldn't miss it if it closed. the pad thai had red sauce on it! what was that???!?!

        1. re: farang

          It didn't taste like ketchup but I can ask them. Do Thais do something different to ketchup? I didn't like the taste much and am more accustomed to the taste of Jaiya's pad thai. Actually, I've never seen this before but it is interesting to hear it may not be unusual. It is great to hear from someone in Bangkok to get a sense of what is authentic b/c I actually felt the sauce made the dish seem more Americanized.

          1. re: nativeNYer

            I think in Thailand and NY, you've got those into ketchup and those not into it. Personally, I'm not a fan of ketchup in my pad thai and would rather have the redness and flavor come from tamarind, chili and palm sugar.

            1. re: Miss Needle

              Miss Needle, Have you ever tried the pad thai at Jaiya? If yes, do they prepare it with tamarind and palm sugar (I know they use chili)? It is worlds apart from any pad thai I've ever tasted.

              1. re: nativeNYer

                No, I haven't had it at Jaiya. If I'm there, I'll make sure to give it a try. If the pad thai is really red, it's probably from ketchup. If it's more of a brownish-red, it's probably the tamarind and chili combo. Actually, the best pad thai I've had was what I've made at home using chez pim's method. In Thailand, pad thai is considered very quick street food. At home, I've made it using more "luxurious" ingredients like big fat prawns. I don't add as much oil as she does and use more veggies to make it healthier (in spite of her insistence that pad thai isn't diet food). In order to not get the noodles to stick, I add more water. If you're so inclined, you should perhaps give it a try one day.


                1. re: Miss Needle

                  thank you! this sounds fabulous and is greatly appreciated!

                2. re: nativeNYer

                  the pad thai is good at jaiya . toon;s is equally good

        2. It's been quite a while since I lived in the neighborhood, but your assessment of Pam echoes my own. Honestly, when I started going to Sri, I pretty much gave up on Thai in Manhattan. But Pongsri's Chinatown branch is indeed decent as Manhattan Thai goes.

          1. Pam Real Thai is good value for money but in absolute terms, its really nothing to write home about. Try Rhong-Tiam on 541 LaGuardia Place (between 3rd & Bleeker) - its new and not well known at all. I used to practically live in Thailand and love Thai food but all of my many NYC Thai food experiences have been disappointing so far until I discovered Rhong Tiam. They do all the classics really well - Watercress on Fire, Pad Thai, etc. And I highly reccommend the fish dishes - including the poached fish with lime and fresh bird eye chilli and the one in the sweet plum sauce.

            6 Replies
            1. re: ywwan

              Very nice tip, ywwan. Thanks for posting this!

              1. re: ywwan

                Just don't go for lunch. I've tried it twice for lunch and I think the kitchen staff is probably totally different at that time. The food is borderline awful, same crap as served out by any other Thai joint in the city. They have this weird vegetable soup they serve before the meal that tastes like Knorr soup mix watered down 1000 times.

                1. re: Peter Cuce

                  tai thai on 2nd street is pretty solid as well its got some decent dishes, good curries, a couple of our friends from bkk work there. But real thai food is almost impossible to find in nyc some good stuff but khao ka moo, ped ka pao, thai muslim curries. roti ect.... thai fried chicken, nam sod, the best stuff gotta go to la to find, unfortunatly

                  1. re: farang

                    When you say NYC, you mean Manhattan, right? There's plenty of good Thai food in Queens.

                2. re: ywwan

                  Thanks for the rec, ywwan. I live in the area and didn't know about this place.

                  1. re: ywwan

                    I'll try Rhong Tiam tonite, thanks for the rec,, i hope it compares to Toon's where i go most often

                  2. try Toon's for authentic thai

                    1. I too had a pretty "blah" experience there a few weeks ago. I had the Pad Thai, and as others have commented, it was just too ketchup-y. The rest of the food was honestly just ok, and nothing stellar. I'm not one for super-spice, but my medium spicy curry was pretty tame as well.

                      For Thai in the neighborhood, I actually have had a few good meals at Chanpen, and get pretty reliable pineapple cashew fried rice takeout from Wondee Siam II.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: corgette

                        In fairness, pad thai may not be the best dish by which to judge a Thai restaurant. For example, I prefer the pad thai at Yum Yum Bankgok to the version at Sripraphai, but the latter is clearly a better restaurant.

                        1. re: a_and_w

                          Agreed, but to me this Pad Thai stood out as being overwhelmingly sweet and sticky, and I couldn't finish it. Having been there 2-3 times and not really having anything outstanding, the PT was for me the glaring reason not to return for a while.

                          1. re: a_and_w

                            Yum Yum! Why do you prefer their pad thai?

                            1. re: Peter Cuce

                              I honestly can't remember -- I just remember liking the pad thai (and nothing else) at Yum Yum and hating it (and nothing else) at Sripraphai. To be clear, however, this isn't any particular endorsement of Yum Yum.

                        2. Well, I actually think the reviews on Chowhound have been pretty balanced, on the whole.

                          I know that every time I've jumped into a discussion about Pam and have brought up its total lack of consistency, I'm never the only person saying it.

                          And in the end, I think that's the problem. When Pam is good, it is very good (not amazing, but good), and when it isn't, it's subpar. The problem is and always has been that it's hard to tell which Pam Real Thai you'll get--the good one or the below average one.


                          NYCnosh* http://nycnosh.com

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: Nosher

                            yup but at the end of the day it is one of the best thais in manhattan, too many manhattan thais are just chinese/american/thai fused places, not that there is anything wrong with that

                            1. re: farang

                              I'm guessing this will not be news to any of you but I'm learning that the variation greatly depends on which chef is in the kitchen on any given day for several restaurants. The trick is to determine the schedule and then hope it remains the same and/or develop a close relationship with the owner who will clue you into these key details.

                              On a completely separate note, I recently had a casual and very open conversation with the manager/owner (?) of an Asian restaurant near Columbia regarding a menu item for which the sauce had changed (for the worse) markedly and at least twice over the past several years.

                              She explained that, when the chef changes, it is very difficult to get the new person to use the same ingredients and preparation procedures b/c
                              the chef will likely be insulted. Again, this is not news to anyone, I'm sure, but she clearly expressed her frustration with asking a chef to recreate a dish in the preferred way. Preferred as defined by this owner 's personal taste as well as the tastes of customers who provided feedback. She said she will often share customer feedback with the chef to support her request.

                              While, again, this is not news to anyone it was nice to hear this candid comment from an owner.

                              1. re: nativeNYer

                                Thai food, and maybe all/most Asian foods, seem to suffer from this problem more so than western foods. My guess is that for most Western foods the preparation is well documented and standardized (at least within one restaurant) so there is no problem of continuity at shift change time. But most Asian cuisines don't depend on highly regimented and documented procedures to produce each dish. They depend more on each individual cook's gut feelings and sampling as he goes along to balance the flavors and seasonings. Thus even within one restaurant there can be a considerable difference in the way Cook-A and Cook-B make the same dish. My wife and I lived in Bangkok for 12 years and we quickly learned that on certain days of the week we would not go to certain restaurants because the poor food days were the days when the primary cook was off.

                                1. re: ThaiNut

                                  well, this is really interesting b/c, I purposely added in the "Asian" restaurant description above wondering whether this may be the case but i certainly didn't know for sure. thanks for the info, ThaiNut!!

                              2. re: farang

                                I respectfully disagree. I've never had a good meal there, although I see from this thread that it is possible.

                            2. its a constant refrain for the past few years: yes, Pam Real Thai sucks. and, it really used to be much better.

                              1. Pam's Fake Thai should be the real name for that place. I'd eaten there 3 times and was utterly disappointed each time.

                                8 Replies
                                1. re: pinkylechat

                                  well lets not get carried away, i dont know about "fake" its a good fix, pretty authentic as far as manhattan goes, there are only a handful of real thai places in the us,

                                  1. re: farang

                                    Farang, have you been to Queens? There are more than a handful right there, and LA has many.

                                    1. re: Peter Cuce

                                      Hmm yeah thanks, lived in thai town in la, for several years, been to queens,, a couple of times, but then what do i know.... i only live in thailand,,, and eat thai food every day, yeah there are 2-3 in Ny and a dozen or so in La, im not saying pam is the best, but it for sure is not as bad as people are making it out to be, it is decent food done fairly authentic,

                                      1. re: farang

                                        Well you mentioning Pam Real Thai as good in the post above is what made me wonder about your exposure to Thai food in the US. I knew that you live or had lived in Thailand. There are at least five to 10 places in Queens that are better and more authentic than Pam Real Thai. When's the last time you went to PRT? When I came back from Thailand, I still though Sripraphai held up fairly well in comparison, but hardly any place in Manhattan did except for possibly Wondee Siam on occasion. Rhong Tiam is the new standard bearer in Manhattan, however.

                                        1. re: Peter Cuce

                                          Rhong-Tiam's menu looks fantastic. Where was it when I was i grad school?!?!?! Thanks!

                                          1. re: Peter Cuce

                                            Honestly i havent been there for about 4 months, but if you feel its not great then thats fine, i think it good for what the us has to offer no its not great. I know that there are good places in queens but really I cant be bothered to go to queens when in nyc. Im just saying that convience vs. quality pam, wondee, or pongsri work fine for me I have a apt on 48 an 8 so they are all local places when we get bored of western food... and with thais that takes about 2 meals. Lets be realistic the thai food in the us is closer to chinese than thai due to the lack of ingrediants, too much sanitation, ect and good thai cooks... prt works for me and most of the thais i know in manhattan but i wouldnt go so far as to say its horrible.

                                            1. re: farang

                                              Can't agree with a generalized statement that Thai food in the US is closer to Chinese. Thai food in Manhattan, perhaps, but in the very good, authentic places in Queens, no. They use all the right ingredients, no bell peppers and lettuce. There is a Thai neighborhood in Woodside, Queens, so most of your objections are moot points. I don't know what the "too much sanitation" is about.

                                              1. re: Peter Cuce

                                                yes it is a generalization, queens and thai town are the exception to the rule. Many places are influenced by chinese food as far as ingredients avalibility goes when was the last time you saw river prawns or slipper fish, thai chicken not close to what we have in the us, mud crabs, scorpion, bitter snails, mangosteen, worms, fermented pork liver, the 20 or so type of greens we use that i know for a fact dont exist in the us, thai oranges the green ones, fresh thai sausage, fermented crabs, the list can go on for days. Sanitation,,, there are many thai dishes that require a certian ammount of air drying of the protiens, at room temprature often in the sun... try that with the health dept, you have to remember alot of our food is eaten from street vendors,, no refrigeration. Many of our open air restaurants have the same set ups. Have you spent any time in thailand? if you have not than the argument is moot yes there are some good places.... but

                                  2. I ate there a few weeks ago and wasn't all that impressed. I like Chili Thai across the street much much better. I'm not a Thai food expert, so I can't vouch for its authenticity, but I thought the flavors at Chili Thai are better and the owner is sooo nice.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: littlebites

                                      To be the voice of dissent...I like it. We've had some OK meals there, and some pretty great ones. In particular, the duck and pork with chili basil have really knocked our socks off. We've always had attentive service. As far as Thai in Manhattan goes, it's pretty good. Obviously it's not Sri or Zaab, but it's a respectable meal.

                                    2. This place is poor. I don't care if you are from Thailand or anything. It was recommended to me by a food snob of European background with a Thai wife. I cannot believe how bad this place is. Oh, and I went more than once on the "... maybe it was a bad day" thought which I usually do not listen to because good places don't have bad days. They might have not their best days but there is a difference.
                                      Seriously, is there some spell within the walls that I and some others are immune from?
                                      Thai food in Manhattan is bad, end of story. I hope the Queens joints are much better in case I am there to try them sometime.


                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: foodonlygood

                                        u have to remember, a lot of the thai restaurants in the city cater to the american palate that's why u're not going to get the authentic thai like in thailand. if you want real thai food, go to queens. I recommend, Zabb on 72st and Roosevelt ave. the food there is from Northeastern province and it's fucking good and spicy. Another one I would recommend is Chao Thai in Elmhurst. Whitney Ave/ Broadway. It's very spicy if you can handle it. Clientele is mostly thai people. Siriphaii overrated because it's in the Zagat Survey and a lot of Americans go there. They have a vast menu but dont really cook authentic thai. good luck hunting. My opinion and I am from Hong Kong and traveled throughout Thailand a lot.

                                      2. Pam Real Thai has two restaurants: the original on 49th St., and Pam Real Thai Encore on W. 47th. I was unimpressed with the original Pam, but the Encore is very good, certainly the best in the neighborhood. Try to ignore the overly slick rave-club style interior, and try the food.

                                        Pam Real Thai Encore
                                        402 W 47th St, New York, NY 10036

                                        1. I've eaten lots of Thai in NYC and this is one of the worst places to eat Thai food! Its oversalty, and they charged me extra money and then served me only bamboo shoots in a veggie curry!

                                          Their online menu is old, so beware, the prices the much higher than stated in the menus (a nasty shock for me when i ordered worth 50 bucks online and the bill given to me was for 80!!)

                                          Think twice before going here, there are plenty of god thai places within 20 feet of this place....

                                          Thanks SF