Long, colorful booths unite dining parties at Heng 2 Thai Bistro, accentuated by an expansive wall-size print of an Asian street scene and filled with the scents of traditional Thai ingredients. Steaming beside menu starters of satay and spring rolls, vegetarian entrees sample a rabbit’s shopping basket for garden-fresh ingredients such as eggplant, broccoli, and string beans. Meaty entrees are categorized by preparations, such as sautéed and curry, and summon patrons to choose from more than 10 proteins, which run the gamut from chicken to squid knee. After plates are cleaned of basil- or ginger-infused bites, desserts such as fried ice cream offer patrons a blast of hot and cold without requiring them to ski into an active volcano.
Lantern Thai crafts inventive and authentic Thai dishes, each elegantly arranged on crisp geometric plates, inside a cinnamon-hued space. Beneath circular chandeliers reminiscent of medieval candelabras, appetizers rejoin ingredients in tasty combinations such as the Lantern’s Angel’s shrimp fried in a coating of crispy angel-hair noodles served with honey-chili dipping sauce. A rainbow of curries sinks beef, chicken, and shrimp into vibrant broths flavored with complex spice blends, and iconic Thai dishes marry noodles and fried rice to bell peppers, pineapple, and meats or veggies. The lengthy drink menu includes three types of saki, lychee-spiked mimosas and mojitos, draft beer, and wine to wet whistles or grease bike chains in a pinch.
In 1842, British troops defeated the military of the Chinese Qing Dynasty and signed a treaty between the two nations in the city of Nanking. What followed was a curious mingling of the two cultures, especially in the culinary realm—Chinese restaurateurs began to alter their traditional recipes to suit the tastes of visiting Englishmen. Today, Nanking NYC channels this fusion of East and West in a menu teeming with unusual dishes and splashes of Manchurian, Szechwan, and Thai inspiration. Hakka chili chicken blazes with whole chilies and fresh herbs, slices of duck simmer in one of four Thai curries, and morsels of fried lobster brighten beneath a fresh lemon sauce, each with colorful adornments of fresh veggies.
Glow Thai’s menu is rife with dishes described by Brooklyn Exposed as “texturally interesting” and “rare Brooklyn offerings.” One example being the pla rad prik, a combination of sole or tilapia mixed with a sweet chili sauce, which, according to the article, is only served in one other restaurant in Brooklyn. Other options include rice and noodle dishes that incorporate fruit, vegetables, eggs, and a choice of protein. Curry dishes abound, made with pepper, string beans, or milk straight from the udders of free-range coconuts. Many menu items use vegetables picked that morning or pickled using runoff water from rice instead of vinegar.
Even the most journeyed Thai-food connoisseurs may find themselves on foreign soil while perusing Zabb Elee’s menu. And it’s easy to see why, as familiar signposts such as pad thai and coconut curry are nowhere to be found, an absence both recognized—and celebrated—by the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Chef Ratchanee Sumpatboon foregoes the well-tread Bangkok staples to shine a light on the cuisine of Isan, a northeast region of Thailand that borders, and borrows flavors from, Laos and Cambodia. Laos-inspired larb salads fill out plates of ground pork, beef, and catfish with shallot, fresh mint, cilantro, and chili powder, and specialty dishes such as the pad ped moo krob balance crispy pork with eggplant, basil, and spicy curry. The menu also features lemongrass soups and a small section of Bangkok rice and noodle dishes. Diners can align each dish with their palate’s own heat threshold thanks to Zabb Elee’s spiciness scale, which tops off at five and tapers off at one, the approximate spice level of dragon mouthwash.
David Bank knows his way around a Thai kitchen. The haute-cuisine veteran was born in Bangkok and began his culinary career at his wife’s family's restaurant in Thailand. In 1995, he came to New York for formal culinary training under such masters at Jean Georges Vongerichten and Tadashi Ono. Still enamored with the first food he ever cooked, he opened Land Thai Kitchen to combine his classical culinary techniques with traditional Thai recipes. Today, with the help of his wife Vanita, he tops wok-charred squid in a chili-garlic puree and black peppercorn sauce, capturing Thailand’s signature spice. Servings of Atlantic salmon and grilled skirt steak show off his French-influenced preparation techniques, while the tropically flavored sauces that coat each morsel hearken to his Eastern roots. His dishes draw praise from many outlets, including The New York Times and New York Magazine.