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authentic thai in manhattan

Hi from a very very cold Minneapolis. My wife (who is Thai) and I are coming to Manhattan on business next week and are staying around 31st and Broadway. Lots of Korean food in that area but we're wondering where the authentic Thai places are hiding in Manhattan. Ambiance/decor is NOT important. And fake Thai or the sugared up/Americanized stuff is a non-starter. We're not food snobs, but we live in Bangkok three months a year and are powerfully spoiled in our expectations for the cuisine.

Any help? We're good to go to other boroughs if it's train accessible and not a 30 minute walk once we're off the train (gawd I sound spoiled don't I?).

Thanks in advance for a places link or two.

HuaGung

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  1. We're getting your weather a day later. Thanks a lot!

    You're not going to get Bangkok-quality food in New York, and certainly not in Manhattan. If you want to stay in Manhattan, once option is to go to Wondee Siam 1 or 2. Both of them have a Thai menu that you have to ask for. I'm really fond of the larb moo; if you talk to the older gentleman at Wondee II, he'll work wit you to customize your meal.

    In Queens, the two old-time favorites are Sripraphai and Zabb (the latter has an Issan/Northern bias, and is much stronger in salads and plainer meats and fish; sauces are better, in general, at Sripraphai. They are easy to get to by subway, and quite close to the subway exit. It is a bit of a schlep to get there, but not inconvenient from where you are staying. Zabb is at 7128 Roosevelt Blvd. in Jackson Heights, quite close to Sripraphai.

    I'm not that current on Thai food in New York. My travels take me to L.A. and Las Vegas quite often, and the Thai food is much better there, but I hope you find something that pleases you in New York.

    -----
    SriPraPhai
    64-13 39th Ave, Queens, NY 11377

    Wondee Siam
    792 9th Ave, New York, NY 10019

    Wondee Siam II
    813 9th Ave, New York, NY 10019

    4 Replies
    1. re: Dave Feldman

      lotta coverage on these secret menus at the various Wondee Siams, are there 3 of them?

      anyway, ate at Wondee Siam II last night, thinking it had a "secret" menu; it was on every table in those little table stands but had different choices than the one at Wondee Siam I [ http://newyork.seriouseats.com/2008/0... ]. The only thing I saw was the same wsa the mieng ka na (which we ordered); a lot of the items on the "secret" menu at number 2 seemed pretty standard fare (or at least, funkier than their huge menu).

      anyway, we had 3 salads:

      + yum woon sen - deliciously sour, served warm
      + pork larb - asked for extra spicy, came spicy but also extra salty
      + mieng ka na - off the table-stand menu

      all 3 were good, all were around $11 +/- $1, all had good flavor but somewhat shoddy ingredients; I'm thinking specifically about the yum soon sen; weak shrimp and seafood but, not horrible. doesn't come close to ayada's rendition but still good (my mouth just started watering). the pork larb was very flavorful, very good smoky grilled flavor on the meat, but too salty. good spice level. the mieng ka na was really good; a pile of sweet spicy crunchy soft stuff to be stuffed in raw leaves of chines broccoli or something related; very delicious but too sweet.

      is this the best of the hell's kitchen area? sure as hell beats any other meal I've ever had in the area but then again, I'm still a Queens devotee when it comes to Thai; give me Ayada or Chao Thai any day, with better food, bigger portions, lower prices and better ingredients.

      Dave, the older gentleman must be the manager with his funny horn rim glasses? Great guy, very attentive and all the service was very good.

      1. re: bigjeff

        You should go to the original Wondee ONLY. The man there himself told me that I'd find Wondee II bland and sweetened, and not to my taste.

        1. re: bigjeff

          Yes Jeff, that's him. The three times I've had the pork larb there, it was salty but not as salty as you describe, so maybe it was an off-night. I'm hoping from Pan's comment that the original Wondee has recovered from its nosedive of a couple of years ago. AT one time it was so superior to the west side Wondee, but after a chef change, it plunged in quality. I haven't been back since a couple of horrible meals there, I think in 2007. I certainly don't want to oversell Wondee. Even its highs aren't as good as the best in Queens, and it is inconsistent both from dish to dish and from visit to visit.

          1. re: Dave Feldman

            Dave, stick to the "Secret Thai" menu, and tell your waiter/waitress that you want everything Thai style and VERY SPICY. Tell them you won't send it back for being too hot and take full responsibility for whatever happens. That's what I did last time, and it was actually somewhat too hot for my girlfriend and me, but we wouldn't admit it, because we don't want them to tone down the chili and the taste, and it was delicious! So we just drank more water, ate more rice, and enjoyed.

      2. it's unlikely that you will be happy with any Thai in Manhattan...occassionally you can get a decent dish or two at Zaab City (but only the Isaan dishes) or Wondee Siam, but neither one would measure up to even the most average BKK restaurant or streetfood stand

        as you guessed, you're best off heading to Queens...do a search on that board and you'll get tons of info on Sripraphai, Chao, and a couple other places...from your location, it's easy enough to hop the 7 train at Times Sq

        if you decide to try a Manhattan Thai place, definitely chat up the staff extensively and tell them in Thai exactly how you prefer things prepared, etc...once in a rare while, you'll find a chef who is excited to cook up something special, and sometimes i've convinced places to serve me the staff meal of the day...but often, even if they are game, they don't even have the necessary ingredients on hand (e.g. bla-ra)...most Manhattan places don't even make their somdam w/ the little dried shrimp (they simply don't bother to stock because they think most farangs either don't like it or don't care)...and some even use canned, goopy chili sauce instead of fresh chilies...get the idea of how grim things are?...

        Good luck!...

        As a sidenote, if you are craving spicy food, Manhattan *does* have some very fine options for Sichuan food...Grand Sichuan on 24th/9th or Szechuan Gourmet on 39th/5th...so maybe keep those in mind...

        1 Reply
        1. re: Simon

          I agree with Simon. Sripraphai is really your best bet. I think that Pam at Pam's Real Thai on 49th just west of 9th Av. could make you some real stuff, but really, go to Queens.

        2. Thanks one and all for the advice. We're off to Sripraphai tonight and will hit up Szechuan Gourmet on Saturday. I'll post a note after we've tried them.

          thanks again,

          HuaGung

          5 Replies
          1. re: HuaGung

            Hi

            Please enjoy!
            And post your report when you can! (Just did SG Sunday and really enjoyed it!)

            Cheers

            1. re: HuaGung

              I hope you enjoy Sripraphai, their tod mon pla is good and the catfish too. But if you want to try a place in manhattan with good thai food try Toon's on bleecker st. but be sure to ask for Toon and tell her you want the food made real thai style ( there will be a big difference) you will get real nam pa with it and it will be spicier not toned down. you will say "aroy mak".
              i recommend the laab, the fried fish, and the moo yang.
              Also Thai Basil at 860 9th ave. small place, authentic thai food. Thai Clientele.

              1. re: foodwhisperer

                What does "aroy mak" mean? I speak Malay, but no Thai. :-)

              2. If you want authentic Thai, the most authentic I have had here is called "Thailand Restaurant" on 10th ave between 56th and 57th...the decor is not the best but the food is so good (it's the least sugary Thai I've had in Manhattan). I haven't had Thai in Queens but I think you should check it out.....and it's easy to get to!-if you like spice, the spicy foods here are SPICY.
                Another great place is "Lime Leaf" but it's up at 107th and Broadway (I think Broadway, you can easily look it up).
                But try Thailand Restaurant--the owners will do anything for you--they are very accomodating...last time I was there they told me there is a new chef from Thailand there so "the food is authentic"......he worked at a 5 star hotel there.
                check it out, it's worth it...prices are good (9-15 per entree).

                1 Reply
                1. re: papagai

                  I agree Thailand Restaurant is very authentic

                2. while i have spent time in Thailand over the years, my preference is always delicious over authentic. 2 delicious places in manhattan whether authentic or not are rhong tiam on laguardia and 3rd, and land northeast thai on 2nd ave and 81st

                  the 1st (i think) pongsri was also known as "Thailand restaurant" as the name pongsri was only written in thai. its on bayard and baxter. very good, i have not gone in years, but after my 1st long trip to Thailand in the 80's it was my preferred "authentic" place. but that was long ago

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: thew

                    Second the Rhong Tiam recommendation. Spicy, complex flavors, and delicious.

                    I am curious about the Wondee rec's here because I have *never* had a good meal at I or II and have tried multiple times. Is there a secret handshake that gets you good stuff? Are there particular dishes that stand out that I've missed?

                    1. re: rose water

                      I can't think of any Thai restaurant in New York, in Queens or Manhattan, that isn't inconsistent. Wondee is highly inconsistent. I think your best bet is to speak to the gentleman at Wondee II and ask for the Thai menu (that is partially translated into English). It isn't a secret menu, just one that they assume most New Yorkers wouldn't be interested in.

                      My one meal at Rhong-Tiam was so poor I haven't thought of going back. I went primarily because of several recommendations for the khao soi, one of my favorite dishes. It didn't have any of the complexity of a good khao soi. Many of the other dishes I tried were marred by excess sweetness.

                      I used to go to Pam's a lot shortly after it opened, but I haven't had an outstanding dish there in my last three tries, and it's out of my rotation.