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.
As its name suggests, two halves create Full Moon Asian Thai Restaurant. On one hand is a vibrant, bustling dining room that would not feel out of place in Manhattan. The sounds of lively chatter pervade the open space, hanging over rows of wooden tables where napkins stand upright on plates like swans engaged in staring contests. This electric atmosphere juxtaposes neatly with the quieter corners of the restaurant, where eyes are drawn to elaborate woodcarvings and ears perk up at the sound of water burbling across bricks and sandstones imported from Thailand.
This fusion between West and East—between fast-paced and meditative—carries over to the Zagat -rated restaurant's menu. Sweat-inducing spices strike a balance with the sweet flavors of papaya in colorful curries. Similarly, crushed peanuts and handpicked bean sprouts lend a pleasant crunch to the rice noodles of a traditional pad thai dish. Purple- and orange-tinged lamps dangle above guests as they sample the spread of Thai cuisine, giving them the appearance of tigers at a black-light rave.
Geranium red walls and a seemingly endless supply of fresh Thai orchids contribute to the serene ambiance at Reka’s Thai Restaurant, where the kitchen staffers create classics of royal-style cuisine. With a focus on subtlety of flavors, they fuse both imported ingredients as well as those from local merchants when creating dishes like Escargot Thai Style, Green Papaya Salad, Crispy Duck with Crispy Kale, and Wild Boar Jungle Style, all of which are plated with an artful flair. To complement the leisurely dining style, chords from a classical guitarist permeate the dining room on every Friday and Saturday evening.
"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.
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.