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Pam's unreal Thai

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When I'm approaching 49th St. and 9th Av., it's hard for me not to turn the corner and go to Gazala Place for great Israeli food, but I wanted spicy food today and thought I'd take a break from Wondee.

I've had good meals at Pam before, but I was really pissed off by today's dinner. I ordered Tod Mun Pla, Som Tom, and Duck Prik Khing. I told the waiter that we (my girlfriend and I) like spicy and Thai style, not American style. He gave what looked like a knowing and indulgent smile, but turned out to be a "You don't know what you're talking about, white boy" smile. The Tod Mun was the only dish that was fairly robustly spicy, because of the dipping sauce, which tasted good but could have been less sweet. The Som Tom had no spiciness whatsoever, and the Duck Prik Khing was maybe barely moderately spicy. I asked for some bird's eye chilis and was given some cut-up ones (a better idea than whole ones); they made the Som Tom a lot better and also improved the duck, but there's no doubt the duck, in particular, would have been a lot better had it been cooked with more chilis. At the end, the waiter asked how everything was, and I told him the same thing I just posted here, adding that he should listen to what people say, and that perhaps if I had told him I used to live in Malaysia, he might have taken me seriously (I doubt it, though).

It greatly angers me when the quality of my food is dependent on who my waiter is, to the extent that certain waiters look at my appearance and disregard what I say I want. I would respect anyone who believes I'm overreacting, but the way I feel is that Pam "Real" Thai is on my shit list now. I will not return any time soon and will no longer recommend it.

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Pam Real Thai
404 W 49th St, New York, NY 10019

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  1. I was irritated just reading about your experience. (I've had good robust spicing there, but haven't been for a couple of years.)

    What response did you get when you took your complaint above the server level, to a manager or supervisor?

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    Pam Real Thai
    404 W 49th St, New York, NY 10019

    1 Reply
    1. re: squid kun

      This irritated me, too. Had you not *specifically* asked for your food "Thai spicy," I'd get it but, come on!

    2. god I HATE when it's dumbed down, OP had lived in Malaysia, but that's really beside the point IMHO. the only time that service approach was ok was at an "eat-easy" in Oakland, CA (no sign, no name, no phone) and the owner was the waiter, warned if i wanted hot, I really wanted medium. he was right. I was so used to asking for it to be ramped up, when I finally found the right place I could have blown a gasket.

      2 Replies
      1. re: hill food

        One time, the food at Wondee was actually too hot for my girlfriend and me, but we wouldn't admit it because we've found that when they decrease the chili, they decrease the rest of the taste, so we just had more water and more rice and dealt with it. And while it was very spicy, it was also very tasty.

        1. re: Pan

          yes, that's what I loved about the no-name place, medium was about as best as I could handle (for once) but there was still a huge set of flavor layers coming through that I'd never felt before (and rarely since).

          why oh why can't...

      2. I used to love Pam Thai, but the last few times I've gone there I've left unsatisfied. I do think they have let the quality slip a little in recent years, and there are better options around now.

        3 Replies
        1. re: InfoMofo

          I agree. My meals there have been erratic, and I tend not to go there anymore.

          1. re: gutsofsteel

            Where do you recommend for Thai? (I'm visiting in Sept and had Pam Real Thai on my list since I heard they were known for their papaya salad)

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            Pam Real Thai
            404 W 49th St, New York, NY 10019

            1. re: luluwaffles

              Ayada
              Zabb Elle

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              Zabb Elee
              75 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

        2. We've had better luck with the 47th St outpost and have stopped going to 49th for pretty much the same reason. You still have to insist on the spiciness. They took pla nam tod (whole steamed snapper with ginger, lime and chili) off the printed menu (the waitress said people only wanted fried fish...) but you can ask for it - our favorite dish there.

          1. My initial reaction is to remind you that most New Yorkers, are people like myself who can't handle the spice...but then I remembered, I'd never walk into a That restaurant and say the words "give me real Thai spicy". Why wouldn't they trust you? You can't complain food is too spicy once you made a special request.

            1. I had the same problem last night at Zaab Elee. The first time i went they asked me how spicy and they listened. This time they assured me it would be spicy , not New York spicy Thai spicy. In Thailand the food is more spicy than one can imagine, but awesome. I was so disappointed, i hate when they don't listen, or think you really mean farang spicy.

              5 Replies
              1. re: foodwhisperer

                I haven't had such problems at Zabb Elee so far. If I order spiciness level 2, they don't wimp out. Level 3 is a bit of a challenge for me and a bit too hot for my girlfriend. If you want to blow the roof off, I guess you could ask for level 4 or 5.

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                Zabb Elee
                75 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

                1. re: Pan

                  I am not sure why the spiciness level is an issue, or at least it has never been an issue with me. Or could it be that my answer has always been direct and maybe somewhat blunt? Is it because, in my culture, direct questions can sometimes be considered rude and hence provoke a blunt reply?

                  I'd typically reply, How spicy? Eh, I don't know. Please make it the way it should be. If it's not spicy enough, you will never see us again. Works like a charm, all the time, every time. Well, for a full disclosure I don't look or sound like a 100% Yankee.

                  1. re: diprey11

                    "I don't look or sound like a 100% Yankee."

                    that can mean so many things. care to specify?

                    1. re: hill food

                      People do use stereotypes. Your waiter might have different suggestions depending on how he/she perceives you, that is, on how you look or sound, and the whole communication style can be culturally-specific too. What works for me may or may not work for someone else.

                      That's why some places have two menus. How do they decide which one to give you? What is up with the whole idea of American- vs Thai-spicy? They are simply trying to serve you better...

                    2. re: diprey11

                      Well, at Zabb Elee, if you really want them to make it spicy, they can blow the roof off. I have a pretty high spice tolerance, but I know that I would not be able to eat their Level 5.

                2. I'm not too familiar with the etiquette of this sort of situation, but is this the kind of incident where it might be appropriate to send back a dish? I mean, I might be wrong here, but I'd think that if you specifically ask for something to be spicy, and when it's served it's not spicy, then that's not what you ordered. If you're not getting what you asked for, I don't see why you should be expected to then eat and pay for it.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: sanjacinto

                    I certainly could have sent food back if I hadn't been so hungry and wanted to wait long enough to get someone's attention.

                    1. re: Pan

                      I love when someone suggests sending food back. It causes a major delay and throws off the whole rhythm of the meal. I will often bite the bullet and just accept what's put in front of me (as long as the food is edible) in order to avoid the wait, but I will not be happy about it.