HOME > Chowhound > Manhattan >
What's your latest food project? Tell us about it
TELL US

Thai. Is there a "not-to-be-missed" place?

j
jilkat25 Sep 24, 2013 07:44 AM

My son and I are spending a few days in NYC in early November. We would like to eat a meal (preferably dinner) at the city's best Thai restaurant. A mid to high-end place with good cocktails and a broad menu would be nice. I'd prefer to stay in Manhattan but am open to crossing a bridge. Suggestions?

  1. Motosport Sep 24, 2013 07:52 AM

    Land Thai on the UWS and
    Jaiya thai in Gramercy are two of our favorites.

    9 Replies
    1. re: Motosport
      j
      jilkat25 Sep 24, 2013 08:08 AM

      Awesome! Thank you! I promised my son we'd go to the Museum of Natural History. Maybe Land Thai would be a good place to try the day we go there!

      1. re: jilkat25
        GoodGravy Sep 24, 2013 08:30 AM

        Jaiya didn't blow my socks off. I prefer Zabb Elee. Plenty of heat, but plenty of flavor which can be hard to manage. Sripraphai in Queens is also better than Jaiya IMO. While both are Thai, I think Zabb Elee and Sripraphai represent two different regions of Thailand so the dishes and offerings are different. Sripraphai is the Thai food you expect, just done better while Zabb Elee is the sfuff you may be unfamiliar with, but is definitely worth trying.

        1. re: GoodGravy
          j
          JC2 Sep 24, 2013 08:46 AM

          I love Zabb Elee too, but didn't the OP say mid to high end?

          1. re: JC2
            GoodGravy Sep 24, 2013 09:06 AM

            Mid to high end "would be nice". ZE counts as mid, doesn't it? It doesn't have a cocktail program, but the menu's broad enough to order 4-5 different style dishes and get a good sampling of the region.

          2. re: GoodGravy
            Motosport Sep 24, 2013 10:43 AM

            We've never been disappointed at Jaiya. They have interesting cocktails too!!
            There is a "flaming" soup on the menu that is amazing.

            1. re: GoodGravy
              Silverjay Sep 25, 2013 06:33 AM

              The folks behind Sripraphai are also from Isaan, however the menu there is broader more pan-Thailand in nature (Isaan dishes, curries, noodles, Chinese influenced stuff, etc.). Zabb Elee is more laser focused on Isaan food.

              1. re: Silverjay
                GoodGravy Sep 25, 2013 08:09 AM

                Thanks for the clarification. Now I just gotta remember it.

                1. re: Silverjay
                  j
                  jilkat25 Sep 25, 2013 09:45 AM

                  Thanks, Silverjay! There is an Isan (the take-out menu I brought home says Esan) Thai restaurant not far from my house. It's called Bambu. It's really good and really different. The place is nice for a strip-mall joint, but I wouldn't call it "upscale." My daughter and I spent maybe $75 there without drinks (other than water.) but we ordered more dishes than we could finish. The most expensive thing on the menu is the Grilled Sea Bass with Green Curry, $18. Lunches are all $8 (plus $3/$4 to add shrimp or seafood to the rice or noodles.)
                  They spell laab "larb." The menu says "Spicy Levels *Mild **Medium ***Hot ****Thai Style and *****Light Me Up!" Pretty sure we went with ****!
                  The place is always packed, with a diverse crowd including families with kids.
                  You can see the whole menu online at www.bambuthaiasiancuisine.com if you want to compare it to Zabb Elee.

                  1. re: jilkat25
                    Silverjay Sep 25, 2013 09:56 AM

                    Yeah, the transliteration of some of the Thai words can vary...Um, that place may be run by folks from Esan but the menu is pretty much pan-Thai with curries, pad Thai, Chinese stuff, bunch of fried rice dishes, etc. It's all over the place. Which is fine. Sripraphai and Ayada are eclectic as well.

                    Zabbe Elee on the other hand really toes the line to that region. There is a page of nominal Bangkok style offerings. But there are more than half dozen types of som tum, including those that use pla ra, a stinky authenticy fermented fish sauce. They also have many choices of larb, including duck and a couple of different pork variations. They will dial up the heat but you need to assure them you can take it.

          3. k
            kathryn Sep 24, 2013 08:08 AM

            There are excellent Thai restaurants in Queens (Woodside, a surprisingly short trip on the LIRR from Penn Station, BTW) but they are not really mid- to high-end. Nor do are they known for good cocktails.

            In fact, Thai restaurants in the city (all 5 boroughs) aren't known for cocktail programs except for maybe two or three. One is Pok Pok / Whiskey Soda Lounge (Brooklyn).

            Another is Kin Shop. Kin Shop is in Manhattan on the more upscale side (though not all that fancy) and has a good cocktail program.

            2 Replies
            1. re: kathryn
              j
              jilkat25 Sep 24, 2013 08:22 AM

              Thanks, Kathryn! I've heard Kin Shop is very good! Believe it or not, we have pretty good Thai ( and other Asian) down here (Texas), so I'm looking for something that's a notch above the mom and pop joints in my neighborhood. I like that Kin Shop is on 6th Avenue, so it's an easy ride from our hotel!

              1. re: jilkat25
                b
                bnowell Sep 26, 2013 06:11 AM

                Kin Shop is great. Highly, highly recommend it.

            2. s
              silencespeak Sep 24, 2013 08:16 AM

              Highly recommend Uncle Boons... Thai food made by former Per Se chefs.

              35 Replies
              1. re: silencespeak
                Motosport Sep 24, 2013 08:23 AM

                I forgot about Uncle Boons. My lovely wife went there last weekend and loved it. Unusual Thai offerings. You may have to wait for a table. They "sort of" take reservations. Look at their web site.

                1. re: Motosport
                  j
                  JC2 Sep 24, 2013 08:48 AM

                  we tried going to Uncle Boons. At first they claimed to have an inspection going on and then 5 minutes later they had an hour wait. Very weird. Maybe it will settle down. Menu looks great.

                  1. re: JC2
                    f
                    foodwhisperer Sep 24, 2013 09:49 AM

                    I think Uncle Boon's is a good choice. Ask for the back room , it's much more pleasant

                    1. re: JC2
                      j
                      jilkat25 Sep 24, 2013 09:57 AM

                      The only reason I said mid to high is that we love Thai food and could eat it almost every day. Mostly, we go to either small, family-owned places or else mid-range Thai restaurants with bars. I can think of at least six just within a few minutes of my house. Plus, I cook Thai at home and shop at Asian and Indian grocery stores. I was thinking New York would have a Thai place that qualified as a "destination" restaurant. I doubt we'll be able to try more than one spot. I already have a reservation at Jungsik (Korean.)

                      1. re: jilkat25
                        k
                        kathryn Sep 24, 2013 10:07 AM

                        A destination Thai restaurant is NYC is not necessarily going to be fancy or semi-fancy.

                        It sounds like Thai food is a special interest of yours. In that case, I would definitely recommend you make the trek out to Woodside, Queens.

                        There are destination Thai restaurants there that are more akin to "hole in the wall" types of places, but the execution/cooking is at a very high level.

                        Post/search on the Outer Boroughs board for info on Sripraphai, Chao Thai, Ayada. Sripraphai is the one I know best because we're addicted to their crispy watercress salad, khao soi, green duck curry, and chinese broccoli w crispy pork.

                        http://newyork.seriouseats.com/2011/03/sripraphai-vs-chao-thai-best-thai-in-nyc-woodside-elmhurst-queens.html
                        http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/08/dining/reviews/08under.html
                        http://www.sripraphairestaurant.com/

                        1. re: kathryn
                          j
                          jilkat25 Sep 24, 2013 11:57 AM

                          Maybe we should go to Woodside, Queens.Considering we're staying in Midtown, it isn't that far by subway. Thank you for the great suggestions!

                        2. re: jilkat25
                          p
                          Pookipichu Sep 24, 2013 12:12 PM

                          One of the most acclaimed Thai restaurants in the US, Lotus of Siam, wouldn't fit the description of mid to high end, because the decor is dated and the place is dingy, though I wouldn't call it a hole in the wall. If you're looking to be blown away by the tastiness of food, I'm not sure you'll necessarily find that in a high end setting. My favorite Thai restaurant in NYC is Sripraphai, also not a hole in the wall, but not high end setting by any stretch. The reason I mention LOS is because it is an acclaimed, destination Thai restaurant, and I personally feel that Sripraphai has comparable quality in its best dishes.

                          Kittichai is very elegant, very beautiful and would fulfill your requirement for a high end setting. Their cocktails are very good from what I hear (not a drinker), but the food is a bit timid for me.

                          1. re: Pookipichu
                            r
                            rrems Sep 24, 2013 08:40 PM

                            Lotus is closed, for some time now.

                            Kittichai is one of our favorite restaurants. While we love Zabb, it is definitely not mid- to high-end (Well, maybe mid). For an upscale Thai experience I would heartily recommend Kittichai.

                            1. re: rrems
                              k
                              kathryn Sep 24, 2013 08:53 PM

                              The Lotus of Siam in Las Vegas isn't closed. It's located in a strip mall. I believe that's the one Pookipichu is using, as an example of a destination, but still non-upscale restaurant.

                              1. re: kathryn
                                p
                                Pookipichu Sep 24, 2013 09:16 PM

                                Yes, I'm referring to the Lotus of Siam in Las Vegas, not the failed branch in nyc.

                                1. re: Pookipichu
                                  Ziggy41 Sep 25, 2013 05:02 AM

                                  I sooo wanted to go to Lotus in Vegas but instead opted for Bouchon and a bland NY Strip for that night. Never travel with picky friends

                                  1. re: Ziggy41
                                    j
                                    jilkat25 Sep 25, 2013 06:20 AM

                                    Yes, Ziggy41 , I agree! I like travelling with my adult kids because they know I do my homework. My husband is a harder sell, but he relents eventually, too. He has been to Vegas many times but I have never been. He wants to go in February. I'll probably be back on Chowhound if we decide to go, otherwise we'll end up at Chili's...

                                    1. re: Ziggy41
                                      p
                                      Pookipichu Sep 25, 2013 06:21 AM

                                      Lotus has some amazing Thai food but so does Sripraphai and it's closer :) I need to eat at LOS several more times before I can do an adequate comparison but in my initial impression, there are a few things Sripraphai does better and vice versa. Overall, unfortunately, I'd give the crown to LOS because Sripraphai has been substituting lower cost ingredients (button mushrooms) and never has any specials or seasonality. What little remaining seasonality it did have (mango sticky rice only when mangoes are in season) is gone. Sripraphai 15 years ago would have been a much closer competitor.

                              2. re: Pookipichu
                                j
                                jilkat25 Sep 25, 2013 06:13 AM

                                I forgot about Kittichai! I would love to go there, but it is another restaurant with very hard to get reservations! Several people have mentioned Sripraphai so I have taken note of it.
                                Lotus of Siam is on my US short list. I'm hoping I'll get to go to Vegas someday! Thanks!

                                1. re: jilkat25
                                  Silverjay Sep 25, 2013 06:29 AM

                                  Sripraphai is cash only.

                                  1. re: Silverjay
                                    Bob Martinez Sep 25, 2013 06:54 AM

                                    Ayada now takes credit cards.

                                    1. re: Bob Martinez
                                      Silverjay Sep 25, 2013 07:02 AM

                                      They have for years. Chao Thai (both) are cash only though.

                                      1. re: Silverjay
                                        Silverjay Sep 25, 2013 07:04 AM

                                        ...but yeah, for CC only customers who want a good Thai restaurant, Ayada should be on your radar. Good point.

                                        1. re: Silverjay
                                          Bob Martinez Sep 25, 2013 07:30 AM

                                          Yep - they started taking cards some time in 2011, right around the time they started serving beer and wine. We probably both go to Ayada with some frequency so we knew about it.

                                          I figured I'd put the info out there because a lot of Chinese and Thai places still don't take cards so I figured it might be helpful to people who haven't been there yet.

                                        2. re: Bob Martinez
                                          j
                                          jilkat25 Sep 25, 2013 09:50 AM

                                          Thanks, Bob! I looked Ayada up and it too sounds great! I may have to go to Queens!

                                      2. re: jilkat25
                                        r
                                        rrems Sep 25, 2013 07:43 PM

                                        No! We go to Kittichai a lot, and it is really not hard to reserve. I do it through Savored, for 30% off, and for that you need to do it a week or 2 in advance for prime times (in fact, we are going tomorrow, and I reserved 2 weeks ago). If you forgo the discount and reserve on Opentable, there are plenty of spots available on short notice. I just checked and they still have 8:45 tomorrow, and Savored still has prime times for next week. Even at full price it is not hugely expensive, but with the Savored discount it is a steal.

                                        1. re: rrems
                                          j
                                          jilkat25 Sep 26, 2013 03:21 PM

                                          Hi, rrems! Getting into Kittichai on short notice it would be fantastic! I hear it's excellent! We'll be there the first week in November and I think it will be a slow week unless people go out on election day. We're going to the theater that night so we'll probably miss any dinner rush.

                                          1. re: jilkat25
                                            r
                                            rrems Sep 26, 2013 08:41 PM

                                            Our dinner tonight was superb as usual. We had an 8 PM res and the place was almost empty until 9, when it became almost full. If you go before theater you will probably be one of a handful of customers. I see plenty of availabliity next week on Savored for 6 and 6:30. November should be similar.

                                            1. re: rrems
                                              j
                                              jilkat25 Sep 27, 2013 01:01 PM

                                              Excellent!

                                            2. re: jilkat25
                                              f
                                              foodwhisperer Sep 27, 2013 04:15 PM

                                              Kittichai is a beautiful place and the bar in the hotel is great too. The original executive chef was a Thai gentleman. The food is good but not really Thai. Because of his agreement with a certain high end ( not Ritz Carlton but similar) hotel chain he was executive chef for, he had to put Chocolate ribs on the menu. ( strange agreement).
                                              So if it is Thai that is not to be missed. this is the wrong place. If it's a restaurant of Thai style, then I too recommend this place.

                                              1. re: foodwhisperer
                                                r
                                                rrems Sep 27, 2013 05:31 PM

                                                Yes, it is not traditional Thai, but I suspect you would probably find similar modern adaptations in Thailand (I've never been there so this is just conjecture). However the food is so delicious, who cares? BTW, there are no longer any chocolate ribs. That must have been years ago. The ribs we had for an appetizer last night were wonderful. The food is also not as spicy as Zabb or Larb Ubol (though you might be able to request to have it spicier) but always has a nice kick to it.

                                                1. re: rrems
                                                  f
                                                  foodwhisperer Sep 27, 2013 08:03 PM

                                                  I haven't been there in a few years. The chocolate ribs didn't really taste like chocolate, they called it that for some reason. Anyway, the menu looks somewhat different now, perhaps because the original Exec chef left. I'll check it out again soon, I like the atmosphere and the menu sounds good.

                                                  1. re: foodwhisperer
                                                    r
                                                    rrems Sep 27, 2013 08:46 PM

                                                    They've had several chef changes, though the food has been consistently good through these. I know the current chef is Asian, possibly Thai, but I'm not certain about that. I have been very impressed with the current menu.

                                2. re: silencespeak
                                  m
                                  MrGrumpy Sep 24, 2013 10:13 AM

                                  2nd Uncle Boons. It's a must.

                                  1. re: MrGrumpy
                                    c
                                    chasamark Sep 24, 2013 10:22 AM

                                    Nusara, in Elmhurst for the best crispy duck salad..

                                    1. re: chasamark
                                      j
                                      jilkat25 Sep 24, 2013 01:44 PM

                                      I'll look up Nusara, too!.......................................................

                                    2. re: MrGrumpy
                                      j
                                      jilkat25 Sep 24, 2013 11:57 AM

                                      Where is Uncle Boon's?

                                      1. re: jilkat25
                                        s
                                        silencespeak Sep 24, 2013 12:47 PM

                                        Uncle Boons is in Nolita.. 7 Spring Street.

                                        1. re: silencespeak
                                          j
                                          jilkat25 Sep 24, 2013 01:49 PM

                                          Yes, I know Spring Street, NoLita!

                                          1. re: jilkat25
                                            h
                                            H Manning Sep 25, 2013 08:13 AM

                                            Try the crab fried rice when you go.

                                  2. Ziggy41 Sep 24, 2013 01:10 PM

                                    If you want something close to midtown I would consider Pure Thai, still my favorite Thai in an area (Hells Kitchen) packed with them. This is closer to a hole in the wall and as Kathryn said some of the best and most authentic Thai places in the city are on the cheaper side. Zabb Elee and Larb Ubal are similarly priced and excellent

                                    14 Replies
                                    1. re: Ziggy41
                                      Motosport Sep 24, 2013 01:13 PM

                                      Excellent but very hole in the wall. If I am not mistaken they are cash only.

                                      1. re: Motosport
                                        Ziggy41 Sep 24, 2013 01:58 PM

                                        Pure accepts CC

                                        1. re: Ziggy41
                                          j
                                          jilkat25 Sep 24, 2013 02:44 PM

                                          Yes, credit cards are a must for me! I just don't feel safe carrying around a lot of cash (in any city) and I don't know much about travelers' checks these days. I will probably never go to my brother's favorite NY restaurant, Peter Luger's, since they only take cash. But then, he probably has the Peter Luger credit card (...some people are so pretentious!... :)

                                          1. re: jilkat25
                                            Motosport Sep 25, 2013 06:28 AM

                                            I think Peter Luger will take a debit card. Give them a call.

                                            1. re: Motosport
                                              j
                                              jilkat25 Sep 25, 2013 07:50 AM

                                              Thanks, Motosport! I'm sure Luger's is excellent but we probably won't seek out steak (something we can get here.). As I posted somewhere, we eat a lot of Thai food, but it's mostly everyday food, which is why I was asking about mid-to upscale Thai in New York.
                                              Originally I wrote something about debit cards in that post but I edited it out. What I had written was that I have one but I don't depend on it. I might apply for a Luger credit card just to tell my brother I have one, haha.

                                              1. re: jilkat25
                                                Motosport Sep 25, 2013 07:55 AM

                                                Funny, I have a neighbor who always flashes his PL credit card to impress us.
                                                With so many fabulous restaurants in NYC we rarely go out to a steak house except on business dinners.

                                                1. re: Motosport
                                                  j
                                                  jilkat25 Sep 26, 2013 03:14 PM

                                                  LOL, Motosport! Exactly the kind of thing my brother would do! Ya, I'm not worried at all about crime in New York. S*** can happen anywhere. I just prefer using plastic in case I lose my purse or don't bring enough money with me to cover what I want to buy. I'm naturally careful and wouldn't flash money, credit cards, or even purchases around.
                                                  High-end steak isn't my thing, anyway, unless the boss is buying. I'd much prefer some small plates or ethnic treats to try if I go anyplace that only takes cash.
                                                  Thanks for the Osha rec.! I think I'm leaning toward Pure Thai, Kittichai, or Zaab Elee at the moment but I'm keeping an open mind. Still trying to decide if we have time to get to Queens, but I'm planning to make NY a yearly thing so I'll get there eventually!

                                                  1. re: jilkat25
                                                    loratliff Sep 26, 2013 03:33 PM

                                                    OP: I'm originally from the D/FW metroplex too and I agree—Thai and Vietnamese there is quite good.

                                                    If I were in your shoes, I would do Zabb Elee, especially if you like spice. Some days their "medium" is enough to bring tears (in the most excellent way). I like Pure Thai too, although I've admittedly only had delivery to my office. Price-wise, Zabb is similar to the Bambu place you linked to. The last time I was there with just two people, I think we spent about $65 after tax/tip with no drinks. (And that was with a lot of food.)

                                                    (If I had lived closer to Richardson when I lived in Dallas, I'm sure my diet would have very closely resembled yours. ;)

                                                    1. re: loratliff
                                                      j
                                                      jilkat25 Sep 26, 2013 09:30 PM

                                                      Hi, loratliff, Thank you for your reply! Zabb Elee sounds great, and $65 for three people is super affordable!
                                                      I have to keep reminding myself that it probably takes less time to ride the train from midtown to Queens than it would take to ride the DART train from Richardson to downtown Dallas.
                                                      Does Pure Thai deliver to hotels? Maybe we could order in and eat while we're getting ready for our theater night (Tuesday.)

                                                      1. re: jilkat25
                                                        loratliff Sep 27, 2013 05:47 PM

                                                        Much less time than DART for sure!

                                                        Any restaurant should deliver to a hotel, no problem. I think Pure Thai is on Seamless (www.seamless.com) too, which is a super handy site/app where you can order online.

                                                        1. re: loratliff
                                                          j
                                                          jilkat25 Sep 29, 2013 11:02 AM

                                                          Awesome! Thanks for letting me know about Seamless. I'm going to their website today and see which restaurants are on there. We won't be spending that much time at the hotel, but since delivery is an option, I want to already have an account set up. I'm hoping my hotel will hook me up with a mini-fridge and maybe a microwave. It was great having those last summer at the Hampton Inn on 8th Avenue. We had lots of great leftovers to nibble on late at night or between outings. I even brought some things (bread, non-perishables) home in my suitcase, haha!

                                            2. re: jilkat25
                                              MVNYC Sep 25, 2013 10:02 AM

                                              You're perfectly safe walking around with cash in NYC.

                                              1. re: MVNYC
                                                Motosport Sep 25, 2013 10:24 AM

                                                Just don't stand on the sidewalk outside the bank ATM @ 1 AM counting the cash you just got from the machine. I see tourists do this all the time and it amazes me.
                                                FYI: Manhattan is very safe as MVNYC says.

                                        2. re: Ziggy41
                                          j
                                          jilkat25 Sep 24, 2013 01:57 PM

                                          Thanks, Ziggy41! I looked up Pure Thai. Can't believe I hadn't heard of it before. Unassuming name, I guess. Definitely on my short list! Sounds like it's made for chili-heads like my son and me!

                                        3. u
                                          UES Mayor Sep 26, 2013 04:21 AM

                                          I enjoy Osha on 88th and 2nd-it really is smallish but they have 3 huge chandeliers which make it feel high end (lol) Anyway more importantly the food has always been great for me.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: UES Mayor
                                            j
                                            jilkat25 Sep 26, 2013 03:32 PM

                                            Thanks for the tip on Osha! We have places like that around here. I've heard there's a McDonald's in Plano or Allen with expensive crystal chandeliers, don't know why...

                                          2. p
                                            peter j Sep 26, 2013 03:44 PM

                                            Larb Ubol is very good.
                                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9101...

                                            Show Hidden Posts