Ayada in Elmhurst - My new Favorite Thai
do people put reviews on here? I don't know, so I will just rant and link to my reviews I guess.
This is my new favorite Thai place - on earth. I've been looking for a Thai place where I can learn everything about the food, and because there are so many Thai in the area, I was having a hard time narrowing down to find THE ONE.
Found it. I am absolutely in love with this place. First, the decor is perfect. dark browns and green highlights. very tasteful. I'm not a person who cares about ambiance at all, but here it is just smooth and beautiful.
not that big, about 25 people max.
I like the style of cooking here. Not just an "authentic" place, but skilled cooking as well. Lots of layers and different feelings brought out in a plate. From talking with the staff, they seem to offer food just like from thailand (northern and central, I believe), and don't care about american tastes. I love that. I am excited for the future of experiencing what more ayada has to offer.
note: the owners are the same as ally's grocery across the street, - which I've heard good things about their pre-cooked food on boards here.
you guys gotta try it. I'm telling you - This could be the next IT. should be the next it, I dig it much more than sriprapai or chao thai or zabb. I am looking forward to hearing your experiences here.
77-08 Woodside Ave
New York, NY 11373
review on yelp
review on jeffrey tastes
I went last month but didn't get around to posting. It's hard to pick a favorite in the area, because 1.) the usual suspects are all pretty good, and 2.) they can all be somewhat inconsistent (especially w/ regard to spicing). That said, I agree Ayada is a strong contender. Som tum had good heat. The spicy sausage appetizer is a nice alternative to the Isaan-style sour sausage you find at a lot of the other places (though if I were really hungry, I could happily order both!). I actually really liked the gai-kua noodles--good flavor and subtle textural contrast between noodles and squid. The waitress and chef were nice and very apologetic about making the gra prow with sliced chicken rather than ground (which is how we asked for it when we ordered). From our experience, I agree that they're not condescending at all about spice levels. I'm looking forward to returning.
had dinner there saturday with my brother. place was empty except for 3 tables. no offense, but it didn't comfort me to see that two of those tables were filled with non-asian diners. when i see this at asian restaurants in the outer boroughs, i take it to mean the menu's been americanized. (i'm asian myself, and i find that it's been a good rule of thumb). that said, i didn't think this place was that great. the menu looked pretty standard, and lacked some of the creativity i've found at sri and chao thai. we got the fried chive dumplings app, which was standard and about the same as what i'd find at any chinese dimsum place, although i found the shell to be exceedingly thick in comparison to their dimsum counterparts. we also got the raw shrimp salad, which was about 6 pieces of butterflied raw shrimp with a thin slice of raw garlic on top and some herbs. it came on a small bed of raw cabbage and a handful of halved cherry tomatoes. the sauce was like fire, but delicious. my brother ordered shrimp pad thai, since he believes any impression of a thai place could be determined through its pad thai. when he got it, we both failed to notice it didn't have any shrimp. he'd just taken a bite when our server returned, excused himself and then took away my brother's plate. and then he returned with four shrimps thrown on top. hmm.
i ordered the tomato sauce noodle soup, which i asked for spicy. it wasn't very spicy at all, and actually the whole soup was a bit bland. i didn't mind the fishy aftertaste, but i did mind that they didn't use fresh squid, because the pieces in my soup were that gelatinized type of squid that was as hard as a rock and didn't get any softer in my soup. after the meal, my brother said the pad thai was too sweet and the noodles were too soft -- to be the point of "squishy" he said.
i do have to give it props for the decoration (nice, simple), the heated row of seats against the wall, and the very attentive and nice waitstaff. but i'd much prefer chao thai.
ate here for the first time last night, ordered a lot of dishes, including a green curry, bbq pork, steamed fish, pad thai, tom yum soup, papaya salad. great food, great prices, great menu, great service, great room. although there will be lots of opinions here about everyone's favorite queens thai, this is mine, by far.
ate there over the weekend and had some very good dishes, small meal:
+ stewed beef tendon (large only) with dark soup
+ yum woon sen
+ thai iced tea
the tendon was really good (if you're into it); not overcooked and still somewhat "crispy"; delicious and served in a unique soup (very sweet, yet spicy, yet deep flavor; you could taste the subtle blood flavoring) garnished with lots of fresh veg (celery, some broccoli stalks? bean sprouts, herbs, cilantro); a very very nice combo. the place got a new neon sign, fancier menus (not b/w mimeographs anymore) and, the place was bumpin.
and morninglemon, regarding the ratio of white/non-white; you can see that this thread (and Village Voice) is prob. the sole source of non-natives (let's use that word) so, they won't be toning down the flavor (and above from jeffsayyes, they also mention that) so, all you're seeing is adventurous types; not a bad thing.
still love this place tho and will continue to patronize; they ran out of many of their "over rice" dishes which apparently are what's really popular (pork leg, roast pork, roast duck, etc.)
ate there this evening about 7:30. there was only 1 occupied table besides ours which is surprising considering it is thursday night. the decor is simple and sparse but i hated the lack of lighting in the place, it was so dark that you really can't see the food that is being served to you. we ordered the gai-kua noodles, pork leg over rice, and the kang som sour curry plus 2 drinks - our bill was a total of $31 and change. i have to admit that it is the first time i've tried any of these dishes and favored the pork leg over rice the most although most of it was fat or skin. the gai-kua noodles were nothing special, very little squid or chicken. the kang som sour curry had a total of 3 rubbery shrimp in the entire dish - expensive considering it was $9. my husband said he felt ill after eating the gai-kua noodles. are they doing enough business in this place to turn over the food? i've been going to sripraphai for 14 years and think i'll stick with them instead.
had an excellent meal here, a light one last night. it was cold and we were one of maybe 3 or 4 tables over the course of our meal; the restaurant was empty when we walked in. if you go in the winter months, the long bench on the right side is actually heated; really great seats!
our meal was excellent and i'm really happy to have tried the place out. ordered light: the sour curry with shrimp and veg, the papaya salad with raw marinated crab and the bean thread noodle salad with seafood and larb-like chicken. all 3 items were excellent and the staff really great. they've only been open for 2 weeks, which is amazing, and they've got some interesting things on the menu which I interrogated our server on. she was very nice, gave me a handful of fresh chilis to munch on in case the food wasn't hot (it was, and with good balance).
the sour curry was just as good if not a tad sweeter than the one at Sri; beautifully tender shrimp, and delicious vegetables, just very nice. the som tam was really nice; simple prep and ingredients and mixed in with the funky papaya, cherry tomatoes herbs and fish sauce were beautiful quarters of crab which we sucked the hell out of. salad was pretty hot but could probably use 20% more overall pungency. the waitress was very . . . I dunno, playing the game of asking how spicy we wanted it, and telling us that she could tell the kitchen that there were some thai people eating (we ain't thai) or non-thais but it sorta seemed a like a somewhat cheesy game, seeing as we were the only people in the place. but we insisted on extra heat and . . . . i think we got 70 or 80% heat. hence, the extra chilis.
the bean thread salad was very nice and sour; cellophane noodles served warm, topped with perfectly cooked shrimps, squid and herbs, ground chicken. no heat, just sour.
actually, this was the last stop on a 4-location queens eating tour so that's why we ordered so little. but we made sure to find out the other goodies on the menu from our server: there is a combo over-rice plate that she said had a pork chop, chicken leg AND bbq pork on it, which is popular w/ the thai customers, their shrimp paste fried rice is supposed to be good, they have a raw shrimp dish which should be excellent considering how good our crab was; they had a selection of thai noodles which she said were very goood: thai northern style with medicinal herbs, pork and spare ribs, and two kinds of thai noodles with ground fish, one with coconut and one without and she said those were also special on their menu; they also have the beef blood soup (dark) which I usually love. She also said their tomato sauce noodle soup was good and it sounded like it would be campbell's cream of tomato-like, but I'm sure, different. they also have a stewed beef tendon dish which I'd love to try. now that I'm looking on the menu, I see they have two diff. sour curries; we ordered the one with vegetables but they have one with shrimp and cha-om omelette (what is that?). I'm sure some of their other specials and things are delicious.
our server was very attentive and offered us a lot of info; she said they opened the place for authentic flavors and wanted to offer a taste of different regions of thailand; northern, northeast, southern, etc.
two things: their menus seem to double as takeout/delivery as well as dine-in; I think everything we ordered cost a dollar extra on the final bill so we were expecting a bill that was $7 + $7 +$8 and I think it was actually $8 + $8 + $9. regardless, still inexpensive (portions were good, not insane) but, just be aware. and second: they gave us a complimentary dessert (not on the menu) of the most delicious fried plantains and taro; beautiful thick crust with coconut, sesame, must be some other stuff, really nice. I'm sure this is for customers during the early part of their launch but, we were also really engaged with them and inquisitive, and I think it helped charm them. so get there!
lastly, we ate at coatzingo earlier, then went to la nueva bakery and cafe, then went to rajhbog so this was our last stop. hence, the light ordering! check the boards for a short writeup of a long day yesterday.
Cha-om (I just learned) are the feathery shoots of the Acacia plant (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acacia#F...). The sour curry with cha-om is a soup like curry with rectangular cuts of omelette with pieces of cha-om in the omelette. I tried it for the first time at Sripraphai last weekend and I like Ayada's version better. Ayada's version is only mildly sour and all the flavors blend perfectly to my taste. Sripraphai's version has tamarind in it which added flavors I didn't like.
All of the items on Ayada's menu are also listed on Sripraphai's menu, and if memory serves right, have the exact same description. I think Ayada's owners used Sripraphai's menu as an English guide in order to save money on a translator. However, the dishes might be quite different from Sripraphai's.
that is pretty funny regarding the menu. our server said that when they did the menus, they were using some chinese typesetting company or menu printer so a lot of the descriptions didn't come through, e.g., the papaya salad with seafood actually refers to the papaya salad with the raw marinated crab but, the crab part didn't make it into the english translation. with that said, taking a look at the Sri menu on bridgeandtunnelclub it definitely has a lot of the same translations; its the asian menu printing cabal in action!
regarding the "game" of telling the cooks thai or non-thai...
I talked to the owner recently - lovely woman - and she said that during the turn of the year, the cooks who originally cooked in Manhattan were making a habit of asking if the patrons were thai or not, then they would basically cater to that - the way they are used to doing it there.
A bit later, she noticed more and more people coming in from Manhattan - perhaps by the Village Voice article or word of mouth. From conversations with them, she learned that if people wanted americanized versions of thai, they would just stay in Manhattan - people are coming to elmhurst to get the real thing (Finally, someone realizes this!). She now instructs the chefs to make the food the same for everyone that comes in, regardless of race (I have a dream) -- but they will make it less spicy on request if it comes to that.
I gotta tell you, it really warmed my heart after talking to her. Finally, someone gets it. It's a different animal in Queens.
I just had their beef with basil (very spicy), and the waitress gave me a choice between strips or grounded beef. She recommended the grounded meat, and I decided to go with it. The spice level was exactly what I was looking for, and I look forward to trying out their other dishes. The entree comes with rice, and at the cost of a little under $8.
My favorite Thai dishes are beef with green curry and Tom Yom soup, but I don't think I'll be in the mood for those in a while. Are there any other must try Thai dishes, pref. spicy?
Tried it. It's great.
The papaya salad was my favorite so far of all the Elmhurst/JH/Woodside guys--multifaceted, full flavored. It was fairly sweet (but also very spicy, sour, salty, and, uh, fishy from all the dried shrimp) and that got me worried about the drunken noodles that I ordered. But they, on the other hand, were very unsweet--and not as full-flavored either. They were light, ungreasy, and peppery (white pepper) and there was no red coloring. It was kind of a blank palate for the condiments they brought out--and I found myself for the first time adding sugar to my dish. I have to note my slight disappointment at the three crowns of American broccoli tossed in among the slices of Chinese broccoli. I was happy to eat them for health value, but don't know why they had to be there.
All told, very interesting, deliberate cooking. And different than other neighborhood Thai places. My last meal at Chao Thai was tremendous--best Pork Pad See Ew ever, and a heaping plate of scorching hot chopped chicken with basil. So for me there is no overall area-wide best (at this point in my exploration) but rather an increasing selection of great Thai restaurants with different food vibes and standout dishes.
The menu is fairly large, and they have some dishes that I've only seen at Sripraphai, like Sour Curry with Shrimp and Cha-am omelet. That's one of my favorites at Sri, and I can't wait to try it at Ayada.
The people who run Ayada are totally friendly, and in our discussion told me that they have already had non-Thai patrons send food back for being too spicy and so it's up to chowhounds to go there and demand the real stuff. They like to toss around the word authentic, so that's how I'll ask for it next time.
Thanks, Jeff, for alerting us to this place on Chowhound. I guess Yelp is often ahead of the curve--but it's very hard to hang out there unless you're looking for something specific, like a search for Thai in Elmhurst.
you're right. there is a problem with non-american restaurants being afraid the americans will send the food back. I'm trying to come up with a fix for that.... We just need them to stick to their guns and not waver. I wish I could be a manager there.
"deliberate" - that's a good word for their cooking. Glad to hear of more good experiences and that mine weren't a fluke.
The sour curry with shrimp and cha-am omelet was the best dish I had at a recent dinner at Ayada. The place is very new and they have some minor kinks but the service is very friendly, prices are low and everything I ate was good.
According to the waitress they focus on eastern Thai cuisine. The menu looks like an abridged version of Sripraphai's menu without the fish section.
BBQ beef with jaew sauce was very similar but not as good as Zabb's. Also, the jaew sauce is thicker than at Zabb.
Papaya salad was ok but not a standout. Not pungent enough for my taste. They also have it with salted crab which might be better. The sour curry was only mildy sour and excellent. I haven't had it anywhere else so I can't compare it to other places.
Bean thread shrimp pork belly casserole - The rice noodles were good but I could hardly notice the pork belly.
I'll be back for the sour curry and to try other items on the menu but I hope they'll soon offer dishes that are not available in other restaurants in the area. Overall, this is a good restaurant and chowhounders should support it but I wouldn't call this a destination place. Not yet at least.
re: E Eto
I had a noodle dish with squid and chicken and the word yellow in there somewhere. I still don't have thai dishes in my lexicon. I also had shrimp wrapped in like an egg roll shell. Never seen that before, but it was very good.
I usually don't recommnend specific dishes b/c there is so much to the menu that it's just a drop in the bucket. and possibly arbitrary. I always just talk to the waitstaff to see what they recommend. she recommended those dishes.
The noodle dish is called Gai Kua noodles. It's one of my favorite Thai noodle dishes, and I try it whenever I find it. So far, Sripraphai does the best version of it that I've had in NYC. I'll give Ayada a try and see if it's any good. The shrimp wrap is a pretty common dish. It's not something I find very unique in Thai restaurants.