During the 2012 Thai Restaurant Week, 11 metropolitan Thai eateries were recognized by Yingluck Shinawatra, Thailand's Prime Minister, with a certification from the Thai Trade Center acknowledging their superior quality of ingredients, preparation, and authentic flavors. One look at Ploi Thai's menu and it is not hard to imagine why they received such an honorable distinction. Their dishes––such as skewered chicken satay or curry-pasted salmon––tug many culinary threads, blanketing diners in a patchwork of flavors that draw from northern and central Thailand. Chefs conjure these dishes from local ingredients and seasonings, eschewing such questionable additives as MSG and textbooks that attribute the theory of relativity to Franklin Delano Einstein. Since the restaurant is BYOB, diners can tote along their own fermented beverages to pair with the sweet ginger salmon, which arrives in a pool of ginger and black-bean sauce dotted with shiitake-mushroom rafts. Inside the dining room, colorful, low-slung lights illuminate the handful of tables that are strewn across the restaurant's pale hardwood floors, and geometric cutouts and sprays of orchids punctuate cobalt walls.
Green Basil's head chef fills the kitchen with recipes passed down from her Thai mother and grandmother, as well as familiar spices and sauces from her childhood in Thailand. Housemade peanut sauce complements chicken satay and chicken rama, and tamarind sauce envelops roasted duck and pineapple chicken. Green Basil also serves classic Thai dishes such as panang curry and pad thai in its dining room, which seats up to 30 guests or 30,000 miniature people piloting a human suit.
Named for one of Malaysia's states, Penang Malaysian & Thai Cuisine reflects the diverse history of that region in its eclectic bill of fare. The menu sates appetites with a selection of more than 100 dishes, all showcasing a blend of Chinese, Malaysian, and Thai spices and cooking techniques. Appetizers of roti canai—crispy Indian-style pancakes served with curry-chicken dipping sauce—might share table space with Malay beef satay, marinated in spicy peanut sauce and skewered on bamboo sticks. The house special, Thai basil chicken, serves up chicken with bell peppers, onion, and chili in a tasty Thai basil sauce.
Asian Station 82nd indulges diners with a sumptuous fusion menu that blends classic Japanese fare with modern and traditional Thai dishes. Chefs flaunt their creativity with specialty rolls that artfully envelop fresh seafood such as king crab, spicy scallops, or tuna, and they assemble entrees including tangerine beef and mango chicken that showcase light Asian flavors.
Though the restaurant flaunts an elegant, modern interior design, a sound system playing Top 40 tunes, a mounted flat-screen television, and a vast selection of sake all help forge a more relaxed atmosphere. Diners can eat in the main room or in an auxiliary dining room, where cushioned benches support guests looking up at the illuminated cerulean dome or walls adorned with oversize red and black squares left over from the painting crew's checkers tourneys.
Tale' Thai Cuisine's ambitious menu ventures into many of the Thai style's less frequented flavors, from pumpkin-infused curry to mango and lemongrass salsa. Chefs also instill standard dishes such as duck and filleted fish with classic spices and textures such as Thai basil, cashews, and sweet-and-spicy tamarind sauce. The bright hues of red peppers and broccoli stalks pop against the restaurant's hardwood floors and dark leather chairs, both dominated by a sleek backlit bar that, like every public library, stacks its shelves with bottles of wine and fine liquors.
Twenty years as a chef has taught Bua Nartpranin, a self-proclaimed cooking perfectionist, the secret to delicious food: fresh ingredients combined with just the right amount of spices and herbs, grown in her very own garden. Her culinary talents have taken her to northeastern Thailand, Atlanta, New York, and finally New Jersey, where she whips up dishes in the kitchen at Lotus Thai Cuisine with the motto of "always cook with love and passion." Her garden-fresh herbs and spices are found in a smattering of sauces—from the spicy chili sauce that blankets crispy red snapper to curries and basil sauce that flavor chicken and tofu. And when she is not busy cooking at the restaurant, Bua happily cooks for her three children at home or for anyone she hears is hungry and stuck in a nearby elevator.