If London’s Crazy Bear had a branch in NYC, this is what it’d look like: a slick, trendy setting for good Thai food. But the big surprise in this Manhattan eaterie are the very reasonable prices: curries and noodle dishes averaging $12 and appetizers for under a tenner. Our Massoman Curry was passable, but the Pad Thai was definitely above average. We loved the furni, decor and ambience more than anything though, and the Thai bar staff are elegant and efficient. In an area chock-full of Asian restaurants, Room Service stands out for style and glamour, even if the food is just decent. For this kind of value, you’ll definitely want to stay a while and order more drinks.
Lima needs more of these – just one Thai restaurant in such a gastronomic city means that this joint is constantly packed, and waiting an hour for a table is not uncommon. The decor is beautifully restrained: glowing orange fixtures over mahogany brown with a touch of bamboo’n’buddha. Service can be stretched at busy times, but is helpful and friendly. The ‘Pla muk yak thok’ pulpo crocante octopus starter looks great but La Alta found it a bit too graphic so we went for the ‘Kung yang’ brochetas de langostinos (grilled shrimp skewers) which were delicate and had real bite and subtle spice. The Indian-style fish curry was magnificent, and the Pad Thai – customized with tofu for us – a breezy, tasty version of one of my favourite dishes of all time. It is all predictably expensive, but worth doing if you’re in the area and hankering for a taste of South-East Asia in a city with a real dearth of it.
This place does sushi as well as Thai dishes, and most of it is reasonably priced. Though it has had some bad reviews, and it seems its special offers and attitude have been inconsistent, we found no fault on our Maundy Thursday visit. We tried the spicy tuna rolls, two huge constructions that resembled handrolls. The chunks of tuna were strangely shaped, neither flakes nor of a mashed texture, but were well dressed in an ají-style mayo in a nigiri wrap.
The Pad Thai was a good version of one of my favourite dishes, packed full of small prawns, but the vegetable curry was a little disappointing. Service is good and the ambience is fine on a busy night. A free soft drink comes with every main, and their Chicha is worth ordering.
Right in the foodie zone near St James Park, with its dozen stalls keeping office workers – amongst them Channel 4 employees – well-fed and faced with a plethora of daily lunch choices to rival any part of the city, sits Thai House. We chose this because it looked like it might be the perfect budget curry caff/takeaway of the area. But it really isn’t: prices aren’t that reasonable for the piddly portions they serve, and the food lacks depth of flavour and a spicy kick. Service is of the laid-back variety, as if they are constantly trying not to care. You’re better off buying the tasty stews, burritos, pies and meat combos on the street outside and taking lunch to the park than bothering with this scam from Siam.
Closest tube: Pimlico
A large space off Avenida de América, with exposed pipes and muted colours, though comfortably lit and absolutely heaving by 10pm on a Saturday night (booking is a must), this is our recommendation of the month. An extensive menu and wine list, friendly service and a great local crowd of what seemed like seasoned regulars, as well as decent portions, fiery spices and low low prices mean we will be back here again.
We tried a starter platter with the softest falling-off-the-bone rib meat I’ve eaten in the city, good crispy (not soggy) spring rolls and chicken satay and a few main courses: Penang chicken curry, tofu red curry, a prawn dish and a rabo de toro in a rich gravy. We forgot to try the noodles, which is another reason we’ll be back very soon.
We finally made it here still in our swimwear, straight from the pool. I had never seen PTT open, and this was our opportunity. They even said the kitchen was closing but we pleaded, and they yielded.
The Pad Thai was really rather good, beautifully presented, nutty, crunchy and not at all heavy. But the real star of this late lunch was the Satay de langostinos, with a generous serving of spicy peanut sauce. Be careful if you ask for extra chilli: the birds’ eye chilli flecks they put in front of you are lethal.
Wine is served in splendidly large glasses, and the decor is clean and fresh – the closest I’ve seen to New Asian in Madrid, with subtle touches of bamboo, rice-paddy green and not a trace of gold nor a red-tassel lantern in sight. I shall be coming here very regularly.
Metro Embajadores/ Palos de la Frontera
This is a relatively smart and swanky place, in spite of its location on what can be, at times, a shabby street. Phuket was our local Thai before we discovered Pad Thai, on Paseo del Prado, less than 300m away.
The main problem here is that portions are small and prices are high. The constant complaint about SE Asian food in the city is that there are just no budget options yet – though it will happen inevitably – but this restaurant banks on snazzy furni and glass fittings to encourage us to pay more for food which could be at least 30% cheaper.
A fine choice if you’re dressed up and want to hold hands and hear the tinkling of glasses.