28 February 2009

AM Thai Chili Basil Kitchen

thailand

[UPDATE 05 NOVEMBER 2013: After a recent visit, I have downgraded this restaurant from 3.0 to 2.0. Pad see ew was sweet, while the tom kha gai I rave about below was not up to par. Also, their menus now read "Amma" instead of "AM"]

At last there is edible Thai in Brooklyn. Off the Church Avenue F station rests tiny, modest AM Thai Chili Basil Kitchen, a monument to Bangkok (and some southern) Thai cooking. The menu accordions out from your waist to the floor when opened, and the dishes cover both sides. They run through all the normal favorites, some AM specialties, and many new items I have neither tasted in Thai restaurants here nor in my three months in the country.

With two small tables inside and one diner-style booth outside, this place is mainly delivery and takeout, which is further proved by the line of plastic bags always ready to fly out the door en route to somewhere in the neighborhood. On a night in early summer of 2008, I picked up a couple dishes with a friend to take back to her place. Immediately when we started opening the packaging, the aromas came out unlike the normal overly-sweetened smells of Manhattan and Brooklyn Thai restaurants. It took only a few bites to realize that Brooklyn had its first authentic place to call its own.


Recently I decided to sample a few more items during multiple meals, to enjoy more of what was on offer and prove that its deliciousness was not some fluke. As always, the first test of any Thai is its som tom ($5, above). This papaya salad was not as fiery with its spices as I would have liked, but had all the right combinations of salty, sour, and sweet that it should.

After my initial visit, AM had gotten some good press, including a review in the Voice by our man Sietsema bowing down to the awesome coconut milks in many of the dishes. I wanted to try the tom kha gai ($4, below) soup that he praised, and was no less than blown away. This dish also had just the right combinations of sour and sweet, and was potently spicy, getting my mouth sufficiently tingling. The plastic spoons on offer were just not large enough to scoop enough of the milky broth, so I started emptying the bowl into my mouth with my hands. I vowed to bring my own large spoon on my next visit.


I had never tried anything like the hot pot dumplings ($4 for 4, below), but was an immediate fan of the vegetarian appetizer. Filled with sweet radish, but tasting mostly of the ground peanut, this seemed like a creative twist on many other peanut-based sauces, but this time stuffed into a chewy and moist cover.


After lunch, I returned in the evening to verify that the curry was good, and was just as impressed with the Panang curry ($8.50) as I had hoped.

The women working here do everything they can to make you happy. On this visit I sat inside and we chatted quite a bit with both present. The cook kept shouting from behind the shelves, asking us if everything was good or too spicy. With our mouths full, we kept responding that everything was just perfect.

And given the location, it was perfect. I hope this becomes a new trend through the city, tiny almost hawker stall holes in the wall serving honest, authentic Thai.

This pad see ew, however, was insultingly sweet.


AM Thai Chili Basil Kitchen on Urbanspoon