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Larb Ubol Hell's Kitchen Thai

Finally a worthwhile Thai place on 9th Avenue! All my other Thai delivery menus are in the trash now that Larb Ubol just opened.
Similar in style to Zabb Elee, with plenty of spice on tap. The chicken larb is great. The Pad Thai is really good - not quite Pok Pok Phat level but miles above the lame local gloppy peanut buttery competition. Also had the Pad Ped duck which is a standout. Still a lot of menu exploring to do.
Hoping others will venture over to 9th and 37th and help make this place a success!!

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    1. Do you know if it's related to the old Ubol Kitchen in Astoria?

      1. Aww, not yet available on Seamless.

        7 Replies
        1. re: Cheeryvisage

          It's on Seamless now. Ordered from there last night. Had the Moo Nam Tok (pork) salad, spicy level 4 and was sweating. This coming from a spice lover.

          1. re: sailsmore

            Excellent re. Seamless. And noted about the spice level. Thanks.

          2. re: Cheeryvisage

            I just noticed this place on Seamless a few days ago and took a gamble on them for lunch - was pleasantly surprised. I had the roast pork on rice, chicken larb, and the liver salad. Fast delivery, too - ~30 minutes to my office near Times Square, and the lunch specials are cheap @ ~$8.

            I do wonder why most of the Thai restaurants in the city seem to specialize in Isan food? Is that just where most NYC Thais are from? Larb Ubol, Zabb Elee, Chao Thai, even Pok Pok and that's run by an American...

            1. re: pravit

              And yet another one from Bangkok that has just opened a New York branch... Somtum Der. It specializes in Isaan cuisine too.

               
              1. re: pravit

                It's entirely my perception, but I think the efflorescence of Isaan restaurants here is a recent phenomenon in which people finally caught on that Isaan style is delicious and sort of the hardcore Andrew Zimmern-style Thai, to put it in colloquial terms. It's a trend, and a welcome one in my opinion.

                1. re: pravit

                  Pravit,

                  Pok Pok (the Red Hook one) is not Isaan; it's ostensibly Northern Chiang Mai-influenced food, not Northeastern Isaan...which are fairly different....

                  re: "why most of the Thai restaurants in the city seem to specialize in Isan food?" -- most don't: most Manhattan places (95%+) serve Central Thai Bangkok-style food...but many of the more recent ones that are getting attention like the ones you mentioned are Isaan and i think that's because it's been a very neglected and ill-served cuisine til recently and it's finally being appreciated and developed...i hope the trend continues, because there is still very little of it in Manhattan that is decent...Zaab-Elee is still the best imo, though i will try Larb Ubol one day...

                  1. re: Simon

                    I plan on trying Larb Uboi soon. The supposedly "best" chef from Zaab Elee is cooking here.

                    http://newyork.seriouseats.com/2013/0...

              2. hoping they will deliver to my office at 30th b/t 7th+8th, don't think that's too much of a stretch. Larb me up, Scotty.

                on another note, the website content is written as if it were an Irish pub w/karaoke, was that the previous incarnation at this location? Odd to take over a website along with the restaurant...

                http://www.larbubol.com/

                1 Reply
                1. re: avial

                  Yeah I noticed the same thing with the website. Looks like they just copied another restaurant's site as a template but havent updated it yet.
                  A couple other things to note - the place is definitely Thai owned and operated and the service was good in a homey family friendly kinda way.

                2. Yeah, they'd better update that website. (Anyone tried that Isaan-style cheese fondue?)

                  This wasn't an Irish pub, though. It's a hard-luck space that's housed a series of undistinguished pan-Asian/sushi/Thai restaurants: T.S. Ma, Zendo, most recently Fusion on 9th.

                  1. Thanks - I'm dying to try it.

                    1. Thanks for the tip, sounds great!

                      1. "Similar in style to Zabb Elee" is more on point than you realized. The chef is Ratchanee Sumpatboon, who previously cooked at that East Village restaurant and, earlier, Poodam's. Poo (as the chef is called by her friends) also tells me that Ubol's Kitchen was no relation, Dave. That old Astoria restaurant was named for a person (the owner, I imagine); Larb Ubol name-checks Poo's home city in the Isan region of northeastern Thailand.

                        Dave Cook
                        www.EatingInTranslation.com

                        13 Replies
                        1. re: DaveCook

                          Nothing to do with the late and extremely lamented Poo Thai in Jackson Heights, by some miracle?

                            1. re: DaveCook

                              In Jackson Heights, near the strip of Indian places...mid-1990s.

                          1. re: DaveCook

                            ubol's was my go to place back in the late '80s, and suffered a longer, more miserable decline than anyplace i can recall.

                            poodam's, on the other hand, went out on top. loved that place. looking forward to giving this place a try.

                            1. re: DaveCook

                              You just made me weep a little with joy. I thought Poodam's was the best Thai in NYC. I'm on my way to this new place now.

                              1. re: DaveCook

                                "...previously cooked at that East Village restaurant and, earlier, Poodam's. "
                                While talking to my server I mentioned I go regularly to Chao Thai, he told me the chef had worked there. He called the chef over to the table and she seconded the info. Must be a core of cooks who work on the different teams in that league.
                                I had pork larb, which hit the spot on a humid day - salty, hot, with a touch of lime. I wanted to try the stir fry of catfish, green pepper corns, krachai, and eggplant but the waiter pushed the duck pad ped with much the same stuff. As west 34 said it is a standout dish.
                                Larb Ubol's location feels the gravitational pull of the Port Authority so one can watch the pageant of life while waiting for the food or woolgathering, a street view far better to that of any Queens Thai, and only a bit off from Lers Ros in S.F. A plus for solo eaters.

                                1. re: wewwew

                                  So, as I mentioned I would, I RAN over there last night, and to be sure the lead chef is from the erstwhile Poodam's! It was clear from the food itself -- AWESOME -- but she emerged from the kitchen on request and we had a joyous reunion.

                                  This (and Zabb Elee) opening in Manhattan brings Queens Thai to the main borough, finally. I only had two dishes -- naem sausage salad and larb moo krob -- but again, this was fantastic quality, and reminiscent of Poodam's. No liquor license.

                                  I'm so happy they're back!

                                    1. re: buttertart

                                      You can. I did. There's a bodega next door, but the beer selection was mediocre.

                                2. re: DaveCook

                                  Ha! And I always assumed that Ubol's Kitchen was named after the city. Thanks, Dave.

                                  1. re: DaveCook

                                    Who's the chef at ZE, if Poo's at LU? I thought I saw Her at ZE just last month.

                                    1. re: DaveCook

                                      So who's at ZE now, if Chef Poo's at LU?

                                      1. re: DaveCook

                                        Clearly I need to read the Manhattan board more than I do. I ADORED Poodam's! I'll have to make sure we get to Larb Ubol.

                                      2. Thank goodness for Citibikes. Looks like a visit to Larb is in the near future. Loved Zabb Elee

                                        Although I must say, in response to "Finally a worthwhile Thai place on 9th Avenue", I keep discovering new and exciting dishes in Pure

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: Ziggy41

                                          This is slightly off-topic, but probably doesn't require its own thread. Do you mind sharing your list of enjoyable dishes at Pure, Ziggy?

                                          1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                            Love the Beef Pad Prik Khing & Crab Meat Omelette (a special not on the menu)
                                            Last time I discovered the Pa-Yao Beef Noodles soup and no doubt will order again. Same goes for the ribs - not exactly falling off the bone but very flavorful.

                                            Love all the Wok stuff: Curry Paste with Pork, Chili Turmeric with Beef, Chili Pepper with Chicken, Cashew Nuts with Shrimp. 3 stars means very spicy so watch out.

                                            Jungle curry fried rice while not one of my favorites, I would get on occasion. Same goes for Ratchaburi crab and pork with dry noodles. Mild, simple but tasty

                                        2. Went on Sunday, arrived early. Was the only customer for a while before other diners gradually sauntered in. I haven't eaten Thai in this area for ages so was blown away by how many restaurants there are on 9th alone; compettion should be better.

                                          Anyhow, nice space, clean, very friendly and helpful waitstaff. Poodam came out to greet me after I'd told the waiter that I dined a few times at her old Astoria location. I was told that Hor Mok, the spicy fish custard, will be added to the menu eventually, but that anyone who wants it can order it off-menu.

                                          I had the Gang Om, listed on the menu as a Laotian dark, spicy soup. You can get it with beef, chicken or pork, I believe. I got it with beef. It took me a while to remember where I'd tried this soup before, when I realized that Thailand Center Point in Woodside serves a version as well, which I always liked very much. Poodam's has even more going on in her bowl, though. There's also cabbage, chunks of pumpkin, lemongrass and dill. The flavor combination was parts sweet, tangy, earthy and, yes, spicy. Very, very spicy. I specified to the waitress that I liked it 4 out of a possible 5, which is usually how I order, but this felt more like a 5.5 or even a 6 compared to most other venues I've frequented (Ayada, Chao, Sri - the usual suspects). This was tongue-searing, lip numbing, sweat-inducing, sinus-clearing, damn-near trance-inducing heat. The waitstaff must have filled my water glass ten times, should have just left the whole pitcher on the table, or, better yet, run an IV from the sink. Through all this, though, the other flavors came through nicely; and typified the complexity that I love about Thai cooking. I'll just know to ask for it at Level 3 next time.

                                          For what it's worth, I heard the couple to my left, who came in a little after I did, exclaim a few times, "wow, this is spicy!"

                                          P.

                                          6 Replies
                                          1. re: Polecat

                                            And I had my first meal at Larb Ubol last night. It's much roomier than Zabb Elee and the service was warm and efficient. My friend doesn't like very spicy food, so we ordered a 2 for all.

                                            Two of us ordered the papaya salad with dried shrimp and long beans. Maybe a touch less fish-funky than Z.E. but bracing and refreshing. This was definitely the spiciest dish we ordered.

                                            We ordered the moo krob larb. The pork belly is sliced, rather than ground, and it's rich and fatty, so it "reads" more like a meat entree than a salad, but it was delicious. It was also less spicy than a typical larb.

                                            We ordered the Pad Ped Moo Krob, a huge heap of crispy pork, Thai eggplant, peppercorns, chili paste, and ginger. How can you resist this combination of sweet, crisp, rich, and spicy? The al dente Thai eggplant was my favorite part of the dish. Sticky rice is the perfect accompaniment.

                                            If I have any criticism of the food, each dish was the slightest bit too sweet for my taste and could have used a tad more acid (especially the crispy pork).

                                            Until it was too late, I didn't even notice that there is a blackboard with some specials, including frog legs. If I had known about the availability of hor mok, I would have ordered it. The table next to ours ordered the whole (small) tilapia stuffed with fresh herbs. They loved it.

                                            I'm excited about Larb Ubol and considering how recent the opening was, they seem to have their act together.

                                            1. re: Dave Feldman

                                              Went for lunch today. PooDam remembered us from ZE, and came out to say hi. There were more customers than I've ever seen in ZE at lunchtime.

                                              We had larb pla krob, som tum thai, and kor moo yang (grilled pig cheek). Everything was up to ZE standards, although the spice level fell short of our specified "3".

                                              I gotta give the Chef credit; she pretty much remembers everything I ever ordered at ZE ("You like yum kai dao and pla goong."), and that's from a total of maybe 18 visits over 2 years.

                                              1. re: Dave Feldman

                                                We went a week or so ago and liked the food enormously, but also found things a bit on the sweet side. Will mention it next time.

                                                1. re: buttertart

                                                  If it tastes too sweet it's likely not hot enough. Maybe they downplayed the spiciness level a bit, just to play it safe?

                                                  1. re: diprey11

                                                    It's possible, although when we ordered the waiter said "I think you have been in Thailand before?".

                                              2. re: Polecat

                                                Had the Gang Om here the other day and it was...eh, not as good as the same item at SomTumDer. It's richer and more herbal at the later. There were not even sprigs of fresh herbs (dill, etc.) in Ubol's version. Perhaps lunch version at Ubol is the problem.?.?...

                                              3. I went again last night. The food must have been good, because today I've got a hardcore case of gout!

                                                Pad ped moo krob and naem sod. To knucklesandwich's point, Poodam well remembered my love of the latter, which I ordered many times years ago at their LIC location. Everything again was fantastic.

                                                1. Working my way through the menu. Unless I missed it, no one here has mentioned Pukk Boong Moo Krob (sauteed morning glory with crispy pork and chili) thus far - I thought it was amazing. In addition, Pla Dook Pad Ped (stir-fried catfish, Thai eggplant, corn, basil, wild ginger with spicy curry paste) was fantastic - even for catfish doubters. Other winners: Larb Pla Kra Pong (crispy whole red snapper, bell pepper, shallots, basil with sweet chili and tamarind sauce), Duck Kra Prao (pepper, long bean with spicy basil sauce), and Duck Pad Ped (Thai eggplant, peppercorn, basil, wild ginger with spicy curry paste). The use of green peppercorns in so many dishes really elevates them.

                                                  And Poodam is an absolute sweetheart!

                                                  1. We will have to try it, excited to do so. We were actually going to head over last night but, after much back and forth, we headed out to Ayada. We had a yen for their penang duck (excellent) and papaya salad. Yet, Larb Ubol has a papaya/avocado salad that looks great.

                                                    1. had a quick meal saturday night. still BYO, beer from the bodega at corner. sampled a salad with crispy pork and the catfish larb. The latter particularly had great complex flavors. no inappropriate sweetness in this meal, plenty of heat with no instructions from us. LIked the people and place very much - needs support - there are about 5 thai restaurants per block in that part of town, have no idea why, but it makes it hard for the good ones to get noticed.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: jen kalb

                                                        I second the catfish larb, which I had last night. So good, very complex flavors, as mentioned.

                                                      2. Finally made it as well. Solid pad ped moo krob. Want to try the other pad peds and more. Decor is somewhat fast foodish but I dont care much for that

                                                        1. We loved the crispy pork larb. The kai yang was also good but I've had better versions elsewhere. Nice place, friendly staff. We plan to return soon.

                                                          1. I enjoyed the catfish larb flavors the other day, but I was surprised that it arrived room temperature. Did any of you experienced the same? I had to add some steamy sticky rice to it to add some warmth to the dish

                                                            10 Replies
                                                            1. re: Ziggy41

                                                              That is actually how that dish should be served. Larb isn't really meant to be served hot and most authentic recipes call for it to be served room temperature...I was actually planning to make this at home tonight. Made it a few weeks ago. One of my favs....Planning on having lunch here next week.

                                                              1. re: Silverjay

                                                                i'm sure your laab pla duk was much better than the comically small and sweet and simply-silly one i ate today at Somtum Der...

                                                                1. re: Simon

                                                                  Switched to laab kai...but, oh no, that placed sucked? I had high hopes. There are some interesting things on their menu...

                                                                  1. re: Silverjay

                                                                    it may just be the learning curve of their soft opening, but portions of somdam and laab are absurdly small -- the catfish laab had so little fish in it (like less than an ounce), it was really just a saucer of raw red onion, w/ a little herbs and crispy rice as garnish...for 13 dollars...

                                                                    I've tried 3 dishes, none of which i'd order again, but i agree there are lots of other things on the menu that look interesting...i may wait a while til i give them a 3rd try and hope they work out some of the kinks in the place...

                                                                    1. re: Simon

                                                                      i guess that crosses it (Der) off my list for tomorrow night (had been thinking about trying it).

                                                                      going to try Ubol soon and will report back for sure.

                                                                      1. re: tex.s.toast

                                                                        tex, i wouldn't write off Der yet -- the menu is big and there very well be great dishes on there w/ better portions...please report back if you try it...

                                                                2. re: Silverjay

                                                                  100% correct about how larb ( laab) should be served. Toon Thai Cafe on 51st St makes good laab kai.

                                                                  1. re: foodwhisperer

                                                                    Well, when I asked the waitress about it she sort of stumbled and said something along the lines of only the catfish larb is served like that. You should have been my waitress foodwhisperer

                                                                    1. re: Ziggy41

                                                                      Ummmm I don;t look good in a skirt.

                                                                  2. re: Silverjay

                                                                    Made it with tilapia last night. Delicious.

                                                                3. I found an excuse to be in the area with friends for a late lunch. We had grilled squid, Pad See Ew, and Larb Pla Kra Pong (fried whole red snapper). Squid was tender and had a light tasting glaze, Larb just what I wanted lime bright and hot from chili powder and crisp to the finish. The Pad See Ew was a pleasant surprise, great smoky wok breath.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: wewwew

                                                                    "Lime bright"...lovely, and just what you want in that dish.

                                                                  2. We are planning to go there tomorrow. It appears they do not take reservations. Should we expect a wait at around 8 PM.? Is there a place to buy some good beer nearby?

                                                                    14 Replies
                                                                    1. re: rrems

                                                                      There is a bodega next door with a mediocre selection. Don't know what might be better.

                                                                      1. re: rrems

                                                                        I'd think a growler fill from beer authority might be your best bet in the immediate area.

                                                                        1. re: rrems

                                                                          Went there last night. We liked everything we ate, particularly the crispy pork larb, duck stew, and sour Thai sausage. The menu is very similar to Zabb Elee, but with fewer choices, and there were no daily specials. So all in all I prefer Zabb.

                                                                          1. re: rrems

                                                                            Did you notice the board? I think there were daily specials there in my visits but I could be wrong. I would normally notice it after the meal is over.

                                                                            Overall, I have to say I still prefer to go to Pure in HK which is so much livelier. But I'll be back to Larb for sure

                                                                            1. re: Ziggy41

                                                                              Livelier in terms of scene or flavor?

                                                                              1. re: tex.s.toast

                                                                                Scene. In Pure I feel like I'm in Thailand. In Larb Ubol I feel like I'm in a book store cafe

                                                                                Flavor wise still hard to compare

                                                                                1. re: Ziggy41

                                                                                  I think Pure Thai Cookhouse is a good analogy -comparable food quality, but a different menu and vibe. Larb Ubol needs a few months to differentiate itself from the what, 4 other thai restaurants on its block (what gives with that??) to build its clientele . Theyve done a fairly good job trying to dress up a chilly modern space for not too much money. Personally, Id rather sit at a table than on a bar stool in a crowded room

                                                                              2. re: Ziggy41

                                                                                I did not just assume this, I asked the waitress. There were no specials.

                                                                                1. re: rrems

                                                                                  Note what Ziggy said. There are "perma-specials" on the board. I didn't notice them until after we were finished upon my first visit.

                                                                                  1. re: Dave Feldman

                                                                                    Really? I did not see a board. I said to the waitress "Are there any specials" and she replied "No, just what's on the menu".

                                                                                    If there were indeed specials, then that is pretty ridiculous.

                                                                                    1. re: rrems

                                                                                      when we were there, it seems like the items on the board were also items listed on the menu. Maybe they havent gotten geared up for real daily specials yet?

                                                                                      1. re: jen kalb

                                                                                        The last few times I was there, they had frogs' legs on the board, but I don't think they were listed on the menu.

                                                                                        1. re: ethnojunkie

                                                                                          youre probably right about that one.

                                                                                          1. re: jen kalb

                                                                                            I think frogs' legs are always on the blackboard. I think sometimes fish specials are there, too.

                                                                          2. I found the laab kai at Larb Ubol to be nothing similar to the same dish at Zabb Elee. The dish was lacking in lime juice, lacking in fish sauce and totally lacking in chili. I did add my own heat from the spice tray.
                                                                            The crispy pork dish was delicous. The papaya salad needed more fish sauce and heat.

                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                            1. re: foodwhisperer

                                                                              I was there Saturday night and had a superb papaya salad (the khai kem with peanuts, dried shrimp, and most important, salted egg). It was mild, but then we ordered it that way (I shared it with a friend with acid reflux). On the other hand, our larb, the crispy pork, was fiery hot (as we ordered). It's delicious, although for some reason, probably because of the fat content, I can't eat as much of it in one sitting as the chopped pork larb.

                                                                              My friends ordered non-Issan dishes and they simply aren't as good. I finally ordered frog off the "specials blackboard" (which consist of exactly the same dishes every time I've been to Larb Ubol -- and only the frog dishes aren't on the regular menu). At our server's suggestion, I ordered the pad ped. The frog pieces, on the bone, were cooked perfectly. The sauce was nothing special. I'm about to run to the refrigerator to eat the rest of it.

                                                                              My friends' gai yang and grilled stuffed tilapia were wan compared to the Issan dishes. The fried rice excellent, though.

                                                                              1. re: Dave Feldman

                                                                                I will be back there for sure. It was my first visit there, and I liked the staff a lot and the food was all made fresh. I look forward to trying the frog. I was there with a girl from Yasothon ( Issan), but she didn't complain about lack of spiciness, she didn't want me to say anything either. We just added it ourselves.

                                                                                1. re: foodwhisperer

                                                                                  Did they ask you how spicy you wanted the food? We asked for the the som tum "mild" and there was a little kick; we asked for the larb at a "5" (LU's spiciest) and I felt it wasn't that spicy.

                                                                                  I agree with you about the servers -- I've encountered nothing but graciousness.

                                                                                  1. re: Dave Feldman

                                                                                    Nope they didn't ask how spicy we wanted it. We just assumed it would be spicy. They were very nice though

                                                                            2. It's worth mentioning to this audience that there is a Pakistani cafeteria-style place one storefront to the south of Larb Ubol that serves bona fide kashmiri tea. It is the only place I know of in Manhattan that serves this more Queens-like treat.

                                                                              So, if you like or would like to try this most unique tea -- pink-violet, from baking-soda, and pistachio-rich -- then stop by for a post-prandial sip after enjoying Poodam's fiery creations.

                                                                              1. I had the kao man gai (Thai version of Hainanese chicken/rice) for lunch a couple of months ago. It was solid.

                                                                                The media trajectory of coverage seems to flow like this: Chowhound-> Eater-> Serious Eats-> NYT...

                                                                                1. From the New York Times:

                                                                                  Hungry City: Larb Ubol in Hell’s Kitchen
                                                                                  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/11/din...

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: Lacrosse_Gastronomic

                                                                                    I usually enjoy Mishan's reviews, but I thought this was a strange one. It starts with the first sentence, which is demonstrably wrong, in fact contradicted by the second and third paragraphs: I can't think of another Thai place in Hell's Kitchen that looks like Larb Ubol.

                                                                                    The larbs and papaya salads are justifiably praised, but then there didn't seem to be an attempt to order other Issan specialties. I'm not arguing that many of the non-Issan dishes aren't considerably weaker -- you have to be careful what you order.