The 10 Best Thai Restaurants in NYC
A decade ago, the average New Yorker would be hard-pressed to name 10 destination-worthy Thai restaurants, but as the city's collective palate has expanded, so too have the options for regional cuisines from Southeast Asia; fiery, sour Northeastern Isaan flavors seem to be in particular abundance these days. The geography has also changed: no longer must the hungry masses venture to Woodside and Elmhurst for their fish sauce fixes, though the restaurants that have proliferated in the Queens neighborhoods are most certainly worth the trip. When the chili powder dust has settled, these are our 10 Best Thai restaurants in NYC.
10. Thai Market, 960 Amsterdam Avenue
Manhattan Valley may be modest in size (spanning 16 or so city blocks), but the area--on the upper reaches of the Upper West Side--enjoys a wealth of great, affordable restaurants, and Thai Market is most assuredly one of these. Red umbrellas are meant to evoke Bangkok's night markets, and an ornate tin ceiling adds a certain atmosphere missing from many of its contemporaries. Stir fries are refreshingly light on oil, and the kitchen will crank up the spice upon request. We're smitten with the Thai Market Crepe, an ultra-thin pancake with crisp edges and a soft, swollen middle stuffed with pulverized toasted coconut, dried shrimp, and mung bean sprouts; more adventurous folk would do well to order a bowl of goong chae nam pla, a raw shrimp dish that packs plenty of chili heat.
9. Zabb Elee, 75 Second Avenue
The Manhattan outpost of an Isaan-centric spot in Elmhurst, this whitewashed wonderland of heat and sourness has all the frills of a dainty French bistro. The muted setting allows the vibrant food to steal the show. Verdant morning glory, crunchy stems and all, sits in a puddle of burnished sauce that harmonizes notes of salt, sweetness, sourness, and intense chile heat. The cooks at Zabb Elee might even have a bit of an environmentalist streak, frying up that scourge of Central Park (and satanic hell spawn), the "walking", sharp-toothed snakehead fish. We're willing to bet the EPA never dreamed up a solution this delicious, which is the only word fitting to describe the combination of crispy, firm flesh, and powerful garlic, lime sauce brimming with chopped chilies.
8. SriPraPhai, 64-13 39th Avenue, Queens
Mekong matriarch Sripraphai Tipmanee set up shop in Woodside, Queens over 20 years ago, and the city's dining landscape was forever changed. The restaurant proved so popular that Tipmanee was forced to move to a larger location complete with a spacious courtyard. The place still commands hour-long waits. There's a near-legendary watercress salad, and curries spicy enough to moisten your brow, but it's the crisp fried catfish with green mango and cashew nuts that keeps us coming back; the golden brown nuggets sport crunch and sour sweetness.