Thai Me Up, Thai Me Down
Rhong-Tiam: No high design, just great food
This week, Our Man Sietsema and I both write about Bangkok-style eats—which we think is about to supplant Issan cookery as the next big thing in New York Thai food.
I review Rhong-Tiam, Andy Yang's unexpected phenom of a restaurant, where he serves the foods of his home city, Bangkok. If you order carefully, you can have a completely wonderful, vivid meal here. Much has been written about the restaurant's Pork on Fire, and you should believe the hype.
In the case of Yang's Kurve, though, (which I didn't review but simply tried to make sense of) hype is all the restaurant's got. Kurve's saga is one of the more ridiculous series of events ever—Yang threw an opening party for Kurve and announced that the place was open. But when I went, the empty space and odd food choices were so bizarre that I called and asked Yang what was up. He then claimed that the restaurant was not open, and that for the past couple weeks they had been just testing out the AC and computer systems. I get reimbursed for the cost of my meals by the Voice. But others would have gone in and spent their own hard-earned money on a restaurant that the owner didn't consider open yet, even though the doors were open and the stoves were turning out food. I call foul.
Meanwhile, Our Man Sietsema reviews Am-Thai Chili Basil Kitchen in Kensington, Brooklyn, and this is a straight-up rave. Our Man adores the Bangkok-style dishes here, and reports that the menu is awash in coconut milk:
But the most impressive use of coconut milk is in the tom kha gai soup ($4), a Bangkok favorite that had my pals moaning in ecstasy.
Our Man notes that duck is also "an obsession" of the (large) menu, and in the quacking category ( I should say mock-quacking, since this one is made with mock duck), he finds one of his favorite dishes of the year.
We made a beeline for duck herbal ($13) and had one of the best things we'd tasted this year, a stir fry of pressed duck with a super-crunchy texture and inviting garnet hue, exuberantly flavored with bushels of green herbs (kaffir lime leaves, tiny pungent basil blossoms, smashed lemongrass, green onions, and cilantro) in a sweet fishy glaze.