Galangal sweeps taste buds off on a sensory tour of Southeast Asia with an exquisitely aromatic menu of rich Thai specialties and fresh Japanese sushi platters. Patrons embark on exploratory dinners under the benevolent smile of a bronze-colored Buddha, savoring the Golden Bag ($6), crispy dumpling skins bear-hugging a tender mix of puréed yam and minced pork. Under the lush light of sconces twinkling from exposed-stone walls, the exotic Mango Basket rice crepe bowl ($15) glows as it pampers herbivorous palates with morsels of shredded mango frolicking harmoniously with baby corn and mushrooms. Eager forks reel spicy pad kee mao drunken noodles ($18) from an ocean teeming with mixed seafood, bell pepper, and eggplant. While diners linger at glossy black tables to the sound of the restaurant's babbling waterfall, skilled chefs behind the sushi bar nimbly twist up a rainbow's worth of bright specialty rolls, including spicy coils of mango and fresh lobster in soybean paper ($15) and a kaleidoscopic array of à la carte sushi bites ($3–$5). Luscious desserts including nirvanic bites of ice cream melting over fried bananas ($7) finally reward sweet teeth for patiently waiting through the night's savories.
Sripraphai Thai Restaurant began as a small, struggling bakery. When owner Sripraphai Tipmanee switched to making roasted duck salad and crispy dried catfish, business took off, eventually moving to a new location and then taking over the buildings on both sides. Credit the critics; it's frequently cited in discussions of best Thai in New York, and Zagat recently rated it number one once again.
Ai's menus are replete with classic and creative plates. A selection of traditional rolls, such as tuna or salmon ($4 each), will fill the usual sushi strongholds, but for hardened appetite bunkers, call in the game-changing bombs of special rolls such as the rainbow (a California roll topped with assorted sashimi and rainbow caviar, $9.95). There are also hearty chef's specials, including mango passion shrimp (sautéed shrimp and mangos in a special Thai pepper sauce, $13.95), and dinner entrees, including teriyaki beef negimaki (thin-sliced beef and scallions in teriyaki or Asian garlic sauce, $12.95).
Wild Ginger's woven lanterns drizzle light on a wall-spanning triptych of paintings that blends modern abstraction with traditional Asian styles. Cherry-red banquettes cushion patrons as they dine on dishes that blend the cuisines of China, Japan, Thailand, and Indonesia. Sushi shares menu space with made-to-order entrees of chicken, duck, and scallops in curry and fruit-based sauces. While waiting on a wok entree to cool, patrons can try to down a frothy brew using only their chopsticks.
Pinang Malaysian Restaurant's behemoth menu packs a smorgasbord of eats that spans from India to Malaysia. The roti-canai starter preps bellies and fanny packs for main courses with a homemade Indian pancake dunked in curry-chicken sauce ($3). Shredded-mango entrees strike a sweet chord alongside the bass notes of tofu ($9), chicken, beef ($12.50 each), shrimp, or fish ($13 each), each steeped in a spicy sauce. Diners can bury forks or priceless family heirlooms in the num-yee duck casserole's savory layers, lined with bean paste, ginger, and scallions ($9.50). Adventurous eaters boldly go mouth first into the chicken or beef peppercorn sizzling platter that defies diners with a fiery brown sauce ($11).
Having developed his expertise in Thai gastronomy in Thailand, Colorado, and New York City over the course of more than 20 years, chef Chai Chunton now flaunts his culinary skills in Lotus Thai Restaurant & Bar. Vines of steam rise from time-tested noodle, vegetarian, meat, and seafood dishes, curling toward nostrils with the hot, sour, sweet, and salty notes of the region's cookery. Adorned by a design team from Thailand, the lounge's dining room is laced with leather booths, ornate Eastern flourishes, and antique chopstick sharpeners. Against the sonic backdrop of occasional evening DJ sets, events in a private room launch the sounds of revelry against exposed-brick walls and a collaborative painting by acclaimed artists Pairoj Pichetmetakul and Kittisak Chontong.