Chef Ben sharpened his knives at the French Culinary Institute before slicing and chopping his way through meals at Siam Thai Restaurant. Each day, he builds platefuls of fried rice flavored with chili peppers, onions, and sweet basil. In other dishes, black-bean sauce coats rice noodles and marinated beef skewers dunk into a peanut sauce. A selection of imported Thai beer completes meals, served in a dining room decorated with Buddha statues and a pair of purple carved swans.
Tom Yum's seasoned Thai chefs create authentic Thai dishes using trademark Thailand spices. The ingredient roster also extends to such flavor-enhancers as ginger, basil, and coconut milk, the kind of milk least likely to come out of a cantaloupe. Along with traditional rice, curry, and noodle dishes, they flame-grill and saut? exotic specialties, including a lobster pad thai and barbecue chicken with papaya salad.
When the owners of V. Thai remodeled the restaurant?s interior, complete with a show-stopping chandelier, they also tackled the menu. Classic Thai curries and noodle dishes join new Vietnamese options, such as traditional Vietnamese pho noodle soups flavored with tripe, brisket, and ox tail. The chefs whip up both Vietnamese and Thai specialty dishes, including caramel-saut?ed fish and the Sizzling Ocean Plate, which serves up the oceans bounty?everything from scallops to squid to sunken treasure?on a sizzling hot plate.
"It sounds like an NYU student’s dream come true," Time Out New York said about Cafetasia, "a sleek eatery on 8th Street serving dishes for less than $10." Indeed, the eatery stands out as a Greenwich Village haven for patrons seeking an innovative dining experience that nonetheless manages to feel inviting and deeply familiar. This sense of déjà vu is most likely triggered by Cafetasia’s cafeteria-style wooden tables—imported from Europe one splinter at a time and reassembled here. These communal tables invite guests to share elbow space as well as a bit of conversation with their fellow diners, much like in a college dining hall.
And much like a dining hall, the menu emphasizes the power of choice by offering a spread of tapas-style small plates; however, the chefs' skills with pan-Asian flavors elevate the cuisine above any cafeteria buffet. Borders don't constrain the chefs' ambition, and they jump from Japan and China to Thailand and Vietnam as they forge their shareable plates. In addition to curries tinged with aromatic doses of basil, pumpkin, or roasted chilies, the menu features teriyaki-glazed chicken, spring rolls with a pineapple-vinaigrette dipping sauce, and ginger-kissed chicken gyoza, which New York magazine called "addictive."
Cafetasia's dining room's décor also aims for a balance between the modern and the familiar. Suspended electric candlesticks seem to float above the tables, casting their gentle light across the rich wooden walls and ceiling. A burnished Buddha statue and a leafy potted plant lend a bit of traditional flair to the restaurant's warm and inviting ambiance.
Taking its name from the ancient moniker for Singapore, Singapura exemplifies the international character of the cosmopolitan city-state with a blend of Malaysian and Thai fare. Like the tempting trails of potato-curry puffs left by merchants along the Silk Road, the menu unites faraway locales through food, serving up paneer alongside coconut curries and fried rice. Palates are tickled with the tangy notes of tamarind, the distinctive flavors of shrimp-paste sauces, and the fiery touch of thai chilies. Catered feasts deliver exotic spreads to weddings and banquets, enlivening celebrations with rice-noodle dishes and marinated meats kissed with lemongrass and kaffir lime.
Fresh, chilled fish crown the hand-cut rolls of sushi at Wild Ginger, where the Japanese delicacies comprise only a small part of the robust Asian fusion menu. Diners can stick to one cuisine or construct meals that pull from all over the East, beginning with an appetizer of edamame, moving on to aromatic platters of pad thai or takeout-classic general tso’s chicken, and sides such as Singapore-influenced rice noodles. Skilled culinary professionals hand-blend the restaurant's broad repertoire of sauces from ingredients so fresh that they regularly deposit coins into the kitchen's swear jar.