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Ayada -- Great Thai in Elmhurst

Dave Feldman Jun 1, 2010 06:04 PM

There hasn't been too much discussion of this restaurant of late and I went there for the first time last Saturday and had what was easily the best Thai meal I've ever had in New York. Two us had four dishes (pork larb, pork strip salad, pork leg & mustard greens over rice, and frog legs). Quite a bit of our pleasure was derived from the lovely hostess, her charm and enthusiasm (and the impeccable way she communicated our preferences to the kitchen), and the laid-back atmosphere.

But the tale was in the food, which had a refinement along with all the bold flavors we hope to find in Thai cusisine. So I'm planning on going back. What should I order?

I promise a more proper write-up after another visit or two. I've despaired of ever finding a Thai restaurant that is as good as, say, the top Thai restaurants in L.A. or Chicago, but if my first meal is an indication, I think I've found the one for me.

77-08 Woodside Ave, Queens, NY 11373

  1. missmasala Sep 7, 2010 08:57 PM

    Finally got to Ayada. It was a sat nite and I knew sri would be packed and I had been wanting to try Ayada anyway.

    I enjoyed this place and we'll def be back, but I wouldn't say that it was better than sri. Some things were better; others worse. I guess that's always the case, tho.
    The servers and cook, etc, were exceptionally warm and gracious. That alone makes it worth coming back.

    We had: pork larb, crispy pork with chinese broccoli, fried rice with tofu (for my veg daughter) drunken noodles with beef, soft shell crab with green mango, and the northern sausage.

    the larb and the crispy pork dish were both outstanding. the sausage was good, but really i always crave the sai oua that they serve at chao--don't know why none of the other restaurants carry it. the fried rice was fine if you like thai style fried rice, which i do. the drunken noodles had a nice anise flavor from the basil and good wok sear, but there were too many random vegetables in it for my taste (ie broccoli and carrots, etc). The big disappointment was the soft shell crab with green mango salad. The crab itself was fine, but the green mango salad was insipid--it lacked acidity and brightness and spice. I had to ask for the condiment tray to try and zing it up.
    Also, tho the larb was nice and spicy, neither the mango salad nor the drunken noodles were spicy enough, tho i asked for them to be phet phet. When the cook came out and I told her they weren't spicy enough, she said that she saw my kids and decided not to make it that spicy. But my kids wanted it very spicy and were disappointed.
    The larb was so good my son asked if he could order another to have for breakfast the next day. unlike at sri, tho, they packed the salad and the lettuce up together so the lettuce got soggy. also, they don't serve the long beans with it, like at sri. i really like those.
    I also asked for a tom kha gai to go and this was not nearly spicy enough and def not as good as sri's. No big pieces of galangal or lemongrass, and regular mushrooms instead of oyster mushrooms.
    I'm thinking this place might replace Zabb for me--a place to go when I want to eat more northern style food.
    Next up: thailand centerpoint. hoping to get there soon.

    7 Replies
    1. re: missmasala
      bigjeff Sep 8, 2010 06:10 AM

      northern is the way, although that doesn't excuse their green mango salad. I had it there with their raw crab and it was amazing; it was good as a topping for whole fried fish too, and I thought it was plenty pungent, tastier than the som tam, like a dark evil cousin. I'd give it a return shot for sure, glad you tried the place anyway. and my favorite soup is still there, the dark beef tendon soup.

      1. re: missmasala
        driggs Sep 8, 2010 06:57 AM

        I am huge fan of this place; but be warned, got a very good review in todays NYT $25 and under, so will be crowded for a bit


        Across from street is one of my favorite buildings:


        1. re: driggs
          comiendosiempre Sep 8, 2010 09:21 PM

          Uh oh, there goes the neighborhood. . . . .

          We've been eating at Ayada for awhile now. I agree with most of the comments here. Some dishes are definitely better than Sri's, others not as good. Terrific soup, some curries and pork and eggplant. We though some of the salads are better at SRI.

          Friendly owners and staff, and they take a reservation even on a weekend. I imagine now none of us will get in anymore.

          77-08 Woodside Ave, Queens, NY 11373

          1. re: comiendosiempre
            janie Sep 8, 2010 09:45 PM

            they were featured on 7 online neighborhood eats 2 weeks ago which gets alot of viewers --i posted the link the evening it aired...they featured m&t last friday in flushing

            1. re: janie
              bigjeff Sep 9, 2010 08:09 AM

              that's great local coverage, pretty cool.

            2. re: comiendosiempre
              driggs Sep 10, 2010 05:19 AM

              They could use the crowds. Never had to wait even though I am often part of a party of six.

              Part of the reason I prefer Ayada to Sri is that they are cooking for at most seven tables. Smaller places, all else equal, always seem to have better food.

              77-08 Woodside Ave, Queens, NY 11373

            3. re: driggs
              bigjeff Sep 9, 2010 08:12 AM

              I thought that NYT writeup was very sweet. of course, people should really know that the fried bananas are elsewhere, muhahahahahaha!

          2. bigjeff Jun 4, 2010 09:31 AM

            been eating here for about a year now:

            but I gotta say, the food has been amazing but, slipping. last couple meals were . . . . . just not as magical as the first few and I don't really know why. I used to hold it over Chao but, I may have to bring Chao back up; also been exploring other options as well; I do love this place but ya . . . . I would recommend for your further explorations the green mango salad (as opposed to the papaya salad), the dark beef tendon soup, and also a lovely catfish curry (dry) that we had once. that shrimp salad has been amazing most times I've had it but the last time, not so much.

            15 Replies
            1. re: bigjeff
              Dave Feldman Jun 4, 2010 11:29 AM

              Hi bigjeff,

              Your enthusiasm for Ayada was one of the reasons I went to Ayada in the first place. All the dishes you name and more are on my to-do list.

              77-08 Woodside Ave, Queens, NY 11373

              1. re: Dave Feldman
                bigjeff Jun 4, 2010 12:07 PM

                Thanks Dave, I see you haven't been too active in NY lately; been missing all your reports, ever since the BBS days!

                definitely keep hacking away at that menu; and of course, it warrants a return visit just to make sure they are on top of their game!

                1. re: bigjeff
                  Dave Feldman Jun 4, 2010 09:38 PM

                  I've been participating on food forums for a good hunk of my life (starting with the early days of Prodigy). I read too many words about food these days, and sometimes it feels as if I don't have much to add. But when I get excited about a restaurant...

                2. re: Dave Feldman
                  bigjeff Jun 13, 2010 01:43 PM

                  Dave, I believe we have some mutual friends! hopefully our next trip to ayada will be one and the same.

                  1. re: bigjeff
                    johnk Jun 18, 2010 07:34 AM

                    Hi Jeff,
                    Do they serve roti canai @ Ayada?

                    77-08 Woodside Ave, Queens, NY 11373

                    1. re: johnk
                      bigjeff Jun 18, 2010 08:18 AM

                      don't think so, that's a malaysian dish; ayada is thai (emphasis on northern). they may have a similar app or something but, unlikely. if you are in the area, you could get that at Taste Good or CoCo Southeast Asian.

                      Taste Good
                      82-18 45th Ave, Queens, NY 11373

                      1. re: johnk
                        squinchy Jun 18, 2010 08:28 AM

                        I think they have roti canai at Sweet Yummy House, which is another worthwhile elmhurst destination.

                        Sweet Yummy House
                        83-12 Broadway, Queens, NY 11373

                        1. re: squinchy
                          bigjeff Jun 18, 2010 09:27 AM

                          what else do you rec there, cuisine-wise as well as specific dish-wise? I been peeping this thread, still haven't been:

                          1. re: squinchy
                            E Eto Jun 18, 2010 09:34 AM

                            No roti canai at Sweet Yummy House. It's about as likely to find roti canai there as it would be at Grand Sichaun or Spicy and Tasty. That is to say, nil.

                            1. re: E Eto
                              el jefe Jun 18, 2010 04:00 PM

                              We're obviously completely off topic, but if someone wants roti canai, Penang is the place to go. Much better than Taste Good.

                              1. re: el jefe
                                bigjeff Jun 18, 2010 04:37 PM

                                oh yeah, forgot about that place! my last meal was so bad there that I must have expunged it from memory but indeed, their roti canai has been untouched for the last 20 years or so; it's a classic. and the one with peanuts for dessert is good too.

                                1. re: bigjeff
                                  johnk Jun 19, 2010 03:46 AM

                                  Ended up @ Sentosa. Had a real jones goin for roti canai.
                                  also had sweet mango shrimp & house special prawns.
                                  the roti had the perfect sweet edge & texture.

                                  39-07 Prince St, Queens, NY 11354

                                  1. re: johnk
                                    Dave Feldman Jun 19, 2010 08:54 PM

                                    Had a good meal at Ayada tonight, although I have to admit that I was quite disappointed in the khao soi, which tasted too much of coconut milk and chili without enough brightness. And the noodles were a bit leaden. Even with generous squirts of lime and onion (no pickles were provided), it still needed more acid and brightness. The larb, as always, was terrific, and the pork leg over rice remains my favorite dish I've tried. The drunken noodles were a little blah, and couldn't compete with the better dishes. I had the sour sausage appetizer and it was delicious -- fresh and much blander than I'm used to, without a strong herbal component.

                                    The waitress was lovely, as always, and the welcome enthusiastic.

                                    77-08 Woodside Ave, Queens, NY 11373

                                    1. re: Dave Feldman
                                      bigjeff Jun 20, 2010 05:38 AM

                                      I've never had the noodles at ayada before; the place, like Chao Thai, excels with the salads, larbs and different soups but . . . . . I haven't had a good khao soi in quite some time; I appreciate this guy's focus:

                                      1. re: bigjeff
                                        Dave Feldman Jun 20, 2010 11:10 AM

                                        The noodles at Ayada aren't up to the general standard of their other fare. Even at my beloved Lotus of Siam, the noodle dishes in general aren't up to the other fare, although what separates LOS from any other Northern Thai place I've visited is that the grilling and sauces are as good as the salads and soups. The LOS khao soi is so much better than any I've had in New York partly because Bill, the owner, drives down to Pasadena to buy hand-pulled noodles that have the most unusual texture. I learned on my last visit that the secret to its luxuriousness is that the Chinese noodle-maker uses duck eggs to provide extra richness.

                                        As a khao soi fanatic, I've had Nat's blog on my RSS feed almost from the beginning. I think he's an easy grader, but I love his enthusiasm and focus, too.

                                        77-08 Woodside Ave, Queens, NY 11373

                  2. c
                    csabi26 Jun 3, 2010 11:52 AM

                    Is it better than Sripraphai?

                    64-13 39th Ave, Queens, NY 11377

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: csabi26
                      Dave Feldman Jun 3, 2010 05:01 PM

                      I used to eat quite a bit at Sripraphai, mainly because it was one of the few places in New York to taste real Thai flavors. But I've never been in love with the place. Much of the food has seemed slapdash to me, but it errs on the side of excess rather than restraint, and I think that's a good thing. I've never felt that Sripraphai was comparable to the better Thai restaurants in Los Angeles or Chicago, and when Zabb opened nearby, I started going there more often, although it had obvious limitations.

                      Ayada has some obvious advantages. Lots of Thais live nearby, and because of its location in a residential neighborhood, it feels like part of the community in a way the Roosevelt Ave. places don't.

                      Last night, five friends and I ate at Ayada, and I had the chance to talk to the owner/chef. As I expected from her larb and sour curry, she is from the North (Chiang Mai) and couldn't have been more gracious.

                      In contrast my first pork-centric meal, we had more seafood. We were limited by several constraints, including a general dislike of heat among my friends. We had impeccable papaya salads and chicken larb (the latter, the best I've ever had in New York, although I'd still recommend the pork), the raw shrimp salad, and the fragrant mussels.

                      For mains, we had the whole steamed fish (snapper, beautifully undercooked), pad kee mao with seafood, Hainan chicken, fantastic greens in oyster sauce (the kitchen is great with vegetables, and although there aren't many vegetarian-only dishes offer, I'd bet that can be arranged), fried rice (the only dish that disappointed a little), and a satisfying and refreshing sticky rice with mango dessert.

                      Kitty, the chef/owner, used to run the Thai store catercorner to Ayada, and she sent us there to pick up some other provisions, including beef and pork jerky, desserts, a big selection of frozen fish (including catfish, red snapper, and mudfish), prepared food, including durian paste and the usual assortment of fish sauces and jarred curry sauces, freshly made Thai iced tea, etc. I didn't see any fresh herbs or produce at all. The woman working there couldn't have been kinder.

                      Can't wait to go back and try some soups, the Issan sausage, and much more.

                      64-13 39th Ave, Queens, NY 11377

                      77-08 Woodside Ave, Queens, NY 11373

                      1. re: Dave Feldman
                        buttertart Jun 4, 2010 05:35 AM

                        Must get to this place soon, it sounds just the ticket.

                        1. re: Dave Feldman
                          bigjeff Jun 4, 2010 09:17 AM

                          fried bananas from allie's, post-ayada, are standard.

                          1. re: bigjeff
                            MOREKASHA Jun 4, 2010 10:01 AM

                            Where is allies?

                            1. re: MOREKASHA
                              bigjeff Jun 4, 2010 10:51 AM

                              that's the place that Dave Feldman was talking about above, the grocery that's diag. across from Ayada; I believe it was the predecessor of the restaurant; name of joint is Ally's (oops).


                              ya, those banana fritters are amazing.

                      2. buttertart Jun 3, 2010 11:16 AM

                        Thanks for the tip. Did you ver eat at Poo Thai in Jackson Heights (was there in the early-mid 90s)? That's my holy grail of NY Thai.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: buttertart
                          Dave Feldman Jun 3, 2010 04:30 PM

                          No, I'm afraid I've never even heard of Poo Thai. What was special about it?

                          1. re: Dave Feldman
                            buttertart Jun 3, 2010 04:37 PM

                            It was magic. A little place run by a brother and sister (she cooked, he ran the front of the house). She was supposed to have cooked for the Thai royal family (yeah I know, her and who else"s army) but she well could have. You went in and the brother would suggest dishes he thought you would like (if you were drinking beer, things to go with that< and so forth). Every dish was divine. At the time it was known on CH as one of the magnificent defunct restaurants of the city. I read about it in Sylvia Carter's column in Newsday - I miss her as a restaurant reviewer, she had the big names beat for adventurousness and good taste. Poo was the cook"s nickname btw, I think it means "little piglet".

                          2. re: buttertart
                            Jeffsayyes Jun 3, 2010 06:46 PM

                            what an unfortunate name

                            1. re: Jeffsayyes
                              buttertart Jun 4, 2010 05:36 AM

                              Rather. Have wondered if it was the death knell for the place. Has a whole different association in Thai obviously!

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