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Jan 5, 2012 09:02 PM

Thai Restaurants in Manhattan Galore but where is the real thing (please advise)

I have been so displeased with Thai restaurants here in the states or anywhere for that matter, simply due to the fact that these places are riding on some trendy tsunami (no pun intended) and all that I can see, taste, and pay for, fail in horrific ways.

Thai food, not too recently gave into to countering my oath to never eat Thai cuisine in the states, and one of the horrible residue flavors that permeated this dish I ordered was sugar.

And a second note, the kitchen could not provide results for a request for fresh, raw chopped chili. The wait staff had to walk to the outside front of the restaurant to the side of the enterence, pinch off a number of chilis from the potted display chili plant, rush to the kitchen, have the kitchen staff cut them up, then return with a skimp portion of cut chili for me, a paying customer, from the ornament outside the restaurant door.

I would expect a Thai establishment to have raw chilis on hand. I suppose not. Or the owner likes to make extra work for the wait staff, by having them run outside and collect chilis from a plant, resulting in a non-satisfactory portion for your dish. I suppose that is real fresh, plucking the chili from the ornament outside the restaurant, but still lacking in quantity. Next time I will bring my own plant lush with chilis for the wait staff to pluck, and I will be certain to join in.

The above restaurant was the second Thai venue visited since I decided to try them out. Both were Thai staffed and well decorated on the Southeast Asian theme but both failed in preparations that would be anything to note. Also the food more resembled Thai food in color not so much taste.

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  1. Good Thai restaurants are in extremely short supply in Manhattan. Some years ago, Pam Real Thai had a good reputation for authentic-tasting Thai food. I have eaten occasionally at the Pam Real Thai Encore in the same neighborhood. It is better than your average Manhattan Thai slop, but I did not find it really exciting. The Wondee Siam chain is better than its neighbors, but I'm not sure that that is saying much.

    It's probably easier to be advised where NOT to go by Chowhounds for Manhattan Thai food. if you are looking for the real thing, avoid anything on 8th or 9th Aves. in Hell's Kitchen or Chelsea. That's not to say that you can't put together a satisfying and cheap meal at one of these places, but they mostly serve the same gloppy, sweet, oily concoctions.

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

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

    Pam Real Thai Encore
    402 W 47th St, New York, NY 10036

    3 Replies
    1. re: foodmonk

      I think that ultimately the problem with getting authentic Thai food in New York is the same as other types of Southeast Asian food here: There just aren't a lot of Thai, Vietnamese, etc. people living in New York City. Unlike Chinese cuisine, there isn't an immigrant population demanding a lot of authentic foods from these regions. I've had far better Vietnamese food in Boise, Idaho, than in New York for this very reason.

      1. re: foodmonk

        I think this demographic element is quite good, and correct.

        The Vietnamese here seems also to be a vogue trend, and many fail.

        I will book my flight for Boise soon, thanks. jest

      2. re: foodmonk

        Agree. Both places went were on 9th ave and when I was more looking for atmopere to chill for a while with blistering hot food to munch on. Nice atmosphere but no burning hot dishes and yes, slop glop and sweet.

        Thank you for the suggestions.

      3. "I have been so displeased with Thai restaurants here in the states or *anywhere* for that matter..."


        There have been endless "there are no good XXXX restaurants in New York" threads but you have taken this to a whole other level.

        4 Replies
          1. re: Bob Martinez

            Anywhere: continental Europe, the US, UK, Republic of the Philippines (Manilla), PRC, ROC, Seoul (ROC), the moon and other celestial masses ...............others please add to list.

            1. re: jonkyo

              At least you didn't say Thailand.

              1. re: jonkyo

                there is an excellent one in London/Hammersmith, a couple great Isaan places in Paris, and a half-decent one hidden in a Shanghai apt buidling that was initially created to feed the Thai consulate there...and many solid places in LA...

            2. In Manhattan, I enjoy Zabb Elee and, when I lived in Harlem, would often go to Thai Market for their khao soi. You will have much better luck in Queens (Ayada being my favorite).

              Thai Market
              960 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10025

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

              1 Reply
              1. re: nmprisons

                I will look to queens, and your recommends thanks.

              2. Which two restaurants did you visit? You don't say in your post.

                1. Zabb Elee in LES has probably the best Som Tam in the city that is as good as most of Thailand. They also don't Farang you by making it not spicy. They offer a scale of 1 - 5. A four is Bangkok standard and a five is as hot as Isaan. Rest of the menu was average.

                  Pam's real Thai on 49th and 9th has a great variety of the usual Thai suspects. Pad Thai, Pad See Euw and Pad Kee Mow (spelling) are really good. I try and stay away from the specials as they often are pricey and a bit ketchup like.

                  Pam's room was a bit average but they have been closed for a brief time to renovate. Lets hope it comes out looking as good as Room Service which has a great room but average food.

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

                  Room Service
                  690 9th Ave, New York, NY 10036

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