26 December 2009

Ayada

THAILAND

There isn't any great revelation to report from Ayada, besides the fact that it is on a shortlist of Thai restaurants in this city that have acceptable food. I am not sure whether it is the four months in Thailand or growing up to a certain degree on the west coast, but I am admittedly picky. In New York, I do not even get invited to dinner with friends any longer when Thai food is involved and Manhattan is the borough of choice. People are tired of hearing me complain. To be honest though, I don't blame them.

Luckily Ayada is around to beef up the small number of places that serves Thai food to anyone who comes in looking for it. There's no unnecessary sugar added and no necessary spice subtracted. They make the food the way it is supposed to be, and you don't even have to ask for it that way.

The decor is a bit deceiving, as often times this type of sleek design is a sign of weak food, but a few trustworthy folks' impressions about Ayada reassured me to gather a couple Thai friends and have a try. The place is very welcoming, with friendly staff and warm colors and surroundings. A sign in Thai thanks all the customers for choosing to eat here, while a satellite Thai channel is pumped in on the big screen to keep everyone entertained between courses.


The som tum ($7, above) is the perfect start to a meal, and will always get my vote when it's prepared right. The sourness of the dish is spot on, while the chilies get your mouth prepared for the rest of the meal. A bonus here is the peanut quantity, more than I've ever seen before and much appreciated.

The pork leg ($7, below) is a decent mound of fatty pork bits served with mustard greens, a hard-boiled egg, and a sweet and sour sauce that has a slight hint of Chinese takeout packets, but 100 times better. I still preferred to eat it alone with the rice though, savoring the savoriness itself. There always needs to be a calm dish in a sea of explosively spicy food, and this serves that function quite well.


Two interesting kang som (sour curry) options grace the menu a few items apart. Very different from any coconut milk-based variety, try the version with shrimp and cha-om omelet pieces ($8, below). Cha-om is the Thai word for acacia, and the square "wafers" soak in the sour in all its glory. It is served with a small bowl of rice, but could be just as easily slurped straight from the bowl if you prefer.


My companions told me that back in Thailand our final dish might be overheard by foreigners to be described looking like snot, but the gelatinous sauce that accompanies the rad-na ($8, below) is much better than that, I assure you. The flat noodles are the showpiece of the dish, served with your choice of meat and Chinese broccoli. They are sautéed and serve as the bed for the other items, so deliciously limp and soft, constantly falling off your eating utensils and requiring skilled patience.