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Oct 20, 2008 12:31 PM

Athens, GA - Cozy Yum Yum

Lord knows I've complained bitterly about the lack of good Asian food in Athens, so I feel obligated to write about our recent visit to Cozy Yum Yum, a little Thai restaurant located downtown on Jackson St., between Clayton and Broad. The space is cozy, indeed, and the service is great.

One visit isn't enough for a thorough write-up, of course, but we highly recommend the place. Everything is made from scratch, but that doesn't mean everything is really tasty. They have some problems with the mostly non-Thai items on the appetizer menu, probably having to do with some degree of non-familiarity with non-Thai cooking. We had some Chinese-style steamed chicken dumplings that were completely underwhelming, and some skinny little egg-rolls that were okay when wrapped up in the lettuce and dipped in the sweet sauce, but nothing to order again.

On the other hand, the distinctively Thai dishes were amazing, some of the best we've ever had. We ordered a Thai-style ceviche dish with calamari and numerous julienned veggies and peppers, a nice-sized salad, really, and very Thai in flavor profile: a bit spicy, a bit sweet, crunchy and fresh and absolutely delicious.

Our other entree was Pad Thai, one of my all-time favorite dishes. Good lord, that blew us away. By the time we had finished our apps, we had established a nice rapport with the waitress, a Thai woman, and she quickly realized that we actually enjoy Thai food, and didn't need it dumbed down or even substituted with non-Thai dishes. She asked if we wanted the Pad Thai "spicy", and we said yes, and lordy it had a kick to it. I've only recently had "real" Pad Thai for the first time, and this measured up to the best we've had. Incredible complexity and balancing of flavors, perfectly cooked, bold and subtle at the same time, with that nice "wok breath" smokiness you only get from a skilled wok practitioner and some serious BTUs.

Anyway, eat here. I'd advise on ignoring the apps menu, as it seems to be a sop to dull Southern palates and unadventurous souls. And be sure to let the waitress know you want "real" Thai food, as they seem scared to serve the pure, unadulterated thing to most of their customers. I think "medium spicy" is how our waitress described our squid salad and Pad Thai. Next time we try one of the curries and one of the Yum salads.

The chef is also Thai, and seems to risk being overwhelmed at times by even small pops in business, but she knows her native cuisine. We chatted with her for a bit after our meal, and she is delightful. I wonder if she'll try to train up an assistant if things get busier.

We'll be back again and again.

Please, Athens: we've finally got some real Asian food in this town, and it's really, really good. Please please please do not neglect to eat the good stuff. Walk away from all that awful "Amerinese" faux-Chinese food, leave behind those little "Thai Restaurant" impostors, and get some of the good stuff. If you've never had real Thai food, you're in for a wonderful surprise.

And yes, your Pad Thai will be a light-brown in color, as Pad Thai is supposed to be. I have no idea how all those other "Thai Restaurants" make their Pad Thai bright pink and flavorless, but it ain't supposed to be pink and flavorless. Just an FYI.

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  1. Um, I would warn you against ordering a curry. That seems to be the serious weakness of the restaurant.

    3 Replies
    1. re: hillarybrown

      After sampling the panang curry at CYY today, I must disagree with hillary - it's most definitely authentic, and a strength, not a weakness in the least. Maybe you just had a rogue dish, because this place has the best Thai I've eaten in the U.S. in years. I would not warn anyone against trying the curries - I would actually warn anyone against eating at any other "Thai" restaurants in Athens, unless you're looking for an over-priced, sub-par version of the real thing.

      1. re: tortuga

        Yeah, I'm more than a little confused by Hillary's post on the curries. We found the Panang curry to be delightful.

        CYY is just flat-out good. As with La Dolce Vita for Italian, I just hope folks appreciate the real deal enough to keep it open and thriving.

        1. re: uptown jimmy

          I'm not the only person who's had some pretty messed up curry there. They have issues with overcooking or undercooking ingredients in them. Crunchy potatoes = not good. Now, it's possible that problem has since been corrected, but I'm not talking about a misbalance of spices or something subtle like that.

    2. While I agree there is a lack of variety of Asian foods (I'd love a Malaysian place), I've always enjoyed the other downtown Thai restuarant (I'm not sure what it's called these days) -- maybe it's not as good as it used be - I cook most of my Thai food at home, and haven't been there in a while. I enjoy Siri Thai because they actually now what the word "spicy" means. I was dissappointed that cozy did not have a Thai squid salad. Has any tried the Yum Seafood? I was also dissappointed in the coconut soup. It was way to thick. It almost seemed cornstarched.

      7 Replies
      1. re: ultimateeater

        I think they _do_ have a squid salad. But maybe it's a different kind.

        1. re: hillarybrown

          Well, darn it, looks like maybe they're spotty across the board.

          But, umm, I did mention a dinstictly Thai-ish squid salad we enjoyed greatly, ulitmateeater. Pretty sure it was a Yum dish, I think?

          They're doing some things really well. I hope they'll streamline things and catch a wave, as the lady in the kitchen has real talent. I suspect her cooking is better than her "restaurant skills", ie those turn-and-burn tricks and habits which mark the difference between an exceptional home cook and the succesful professional. She got weeded with four tables the night we were there, and spoke of it freely with us after our meal. She needs some talented help back there in the kitchen, and a serious emotional investment in consistancy, I imagine.

          And from what we can tell she really needs to stop dumbing down her food in an effort to please unadventurous palates. She's candid about about her desire to please people who might not cotton to unadulterated explosions of Thai flavor. But you gotta commit or quit wtih that kind of thing, I think.

          I wish them all the luck. I need more of her Pad Thai real bad.

          There's a place in Charleston called "Basil" that is borderline impeccable, head chef acquired with an ad in the daily Bangkok newspaper, that sort of thing, and Cozy's chef has that level of talent and understanding of her native cuisine. But I think the place is a little schizo with the menu, and I think they need to staff the kitchen in a way that maximizes consistency and excellence, dish by dish, no matter how slow or busy the shift, no matter how long it takes to build the clientele. Inconsistency is the one great bugaboo of the hospitality industry, the one great deal-killer for restaurants.

          1. re: uptown jimmy

            I'm not sure that inconsistency is the problem so much as some things just not being good. For example: crunchy potatoes = bad.

            1. re: hillarybrown

              I can't speak to Cozy's consistency yet, because I've only been there twice and had different menu items both times. I will say it's a big problem with Thai Spoon & Siri. Doc Chey's is consistent, but some of the blandest food I've ever tasted. I refuse.

          2. re: hillarybrown

            The squid salad I ordered was definitly Japanese style (listed as an appetizer). I didn't see a Yum squid salad on the menu, but maybe I missed it. There is a Yum Seafood, and I was wondering if anyone tried that, but I guess I missed the Thai squid salad on the menu. I look forward to trying it next time! Thanks for the correction.

              1. re: hillarybrown

                What we had was in the "salads" section. Real tasty.

        2. I've lived in Athens for 8 years, and have been consistently disappointed w/Thai food in this town. This is my first Chowhound post, which I was prompted to write after my first experience @ CYY. I've been to cooking school in Thailand, so I'm pretty particular about my Thai.

          Well, I've only been once so far, but I loved the place. The people are kind, the place is, um, cozy, and the pad thai was, by far, one of the best I've ever had. I ordered it spicy, and they took me very seriously. Pad thai is usually my "test" of a new Thai restaurant, but I prefer curries, so Hillary's post has me concerned. I'll try that next time and report back.

          I should mention, when I went there was only one other table occupied. A friend of mine went recently when it was busy, and they had some issues - the total on the bill was wrong, their appetizer was brought out at the end of the meal...

          But considering the lack of really great Thai food in this town (Siri Thai and Thai Spoon are okay only if you don't know what you're missing!), I'm willing to return at least a few more times to CYY while they work out their kinks. I encourage other Thai fans to check it out. Added bonus: the prices are reasonable and they're open virtually all the time.

          1 Reply
          1. re: tortuga

            I'm with tortuga. We found CYY to be shockingly good, at least when it came to true Thai dishes. We gotta get back there soon. The Pad Thai was just amazing.

            They were anxious for us to try their Massaman curry next time, so we'll give it a shot.

          2. I can't wait to try CYY when I get my hands on some cash. What are the prices like?

            Also, to all of the Athens eaters who long for some good asian cuisine, have you tried eat hibachi? Eat hibachi is a kind of weird marriage between fast-food japanese and korean authenticity. They have the requisite ickyness like teriyaki chicken and hibachi shrimp with fried rice and whatnot, but they also have great korean soups and REALLY good bibimbap (bi-bim-bob is what they call it). It's relatively close to what you would get in korea and is insanely tasty. Give the bibimbap a shot at eat hibachi - it makes a great little lunch.

            4 Replies
            1. re: batdown

              Is EH downtown? We'll give it a shot, though Korean is our least favorite Asian cuisine.

              CYY is quite reasonable, price-wise.

              1. re: uptown jimmy

                It is on the west end of broad street next to that big night club and Taste of India

              2. re: batdown

                I have no frame of reference for Asian places. We just don't eat enough of it to really know what's authentic or not (we just know what we think tastes good). Based on the suggestions here, my wife and I went last night, and I have to say that we will definitely be back. I had extra hot pod thai, and my wife had drunken noodles. We also shared an order of Golden Rangoons and each had a glass of wine.

                At the end of the meal, we were both full (neither of us finished our bowls), and the price was very cheap (less than $40 including 20% tip). There was one minor screw up with the service (the appetizer came out with the meal), but overall, the place had a really comfortable and enjoyable atmosphere.

                Definitely reccomend!!

                1. re: littlecsr

                  I wouldn't go to CYY expecting anything resembling strict Western-style service, especially if they're busy at all. You might get your apps first, followed by your soups, followed by your entrees, but that's not really the priority for them, it would seem, and for what it's worth. The chef seems to want the food to come out hot and fast, and gets weeded like anybody, but I also think she just doesn't adhere to the sanctity of proper course delivery. Maybe it's a cultural thing, I don't know. Never been to Thailand...

                  But the food and drink and ambience are delightful, and a steal, as you point out. We had 2 drinks a piece and soup and 2 entrees for $40.00, not including tip. That's pretty awesome. BTW, if you had the xtra spicy Pad Thai, you are a hoss. I'm very spicy and happy at medium.

                  One last thing: with Thai and Chinese food, eat "family style", as we have long ago learned to do. Order enough food for each person, don't get 2 of the same dish, and pass the plates around. It's really the only way to go, and it even works in nicer upscale places if it's between 2 people who are, umm, close. That way you get lots of different tastes at one sitting. Granted, I wouldn't necessarily share entrees with a table of 6 at 5&10, but you get what I mean. At good Thai and Chinese places, "family style" is the only way to fly.

              3. Return visit: once again an awesome Pad Thai, plus the Thai classic chicken coconut soup and a Massaman curry.

                The curry was really good, subtle and with an almost flowery perfumy quality. We thought it was great with chicken, but we think it would really shine with beef. The soup was lovely as well, lots of nice layering of flavors.

                We're gonna stick with soup and the noodle dishes next time, I think. We love soup and noodles.

                Love this place. Only legit Asian food of any type in the area, as far as we know, and it's so nice to have it around. Again, they admit to including things on the menu designed to appeal to less adventurous palates, and I suspect the chef isn't as comfortable with or as inspired by non-Thai dishes (that covers most of the apps). FYI. But they could pay their bills with the Pad Thai alone in most markets, IMO.

                1 Reply
                1. re: uptown jimmy

                  Had a second visit to CYY, this time for lunch. Decided to try my favorite curry this time (panang). Again, amazing! It looked a little watery, but upon first taste, the flavor was all there. Definitely the real deal - I learned to make this curry from scratch in Thailand, and CYY really brings me back there. I'm so excited about this place, which is a relief after being disappointed by every Thai meal I've ever had in Athens.

                  Again, my serving size was large, enough for two meals. I had the "hot" Pad Thai last time, and went "medium" on this curry just to taste the difference - "medium" still has a bit of kick, which is how it should be! I got the panang with chicken, and there was lots of chicken in it - no skimping here. There was 4 or 5 other tables being served when I arrived, and I got my food in 15 minutes. I have no idea how she cranks it out so fast, but service was not a problem this time.

                  FYI to the vegetarians, there's a "chicken substitute" available for all dishes, as well as tofu. Also, CYY serves Thai beer (Chang), also Tiger beer from Vietnam and they have Sapporo on tap.

                  I'm also not interested in the non-Thai, "generic Asian" items on their menu, but I suppose that will work for the non-adventurous folks. As long as this place gets business, I don't care! I'm really looking forward to going to this place often - I want to try all different Thai menu items, other curries and noodle dishes, but it's gonna be tough fighting the urge to order that extraordinary Pad Thai again...