Pure Thai Shophouse – a break from mediocrity

Along the 9th Ave. stretch of Hell’s Kitchen, there are more Thai restaurants than you can count on both hands. For the most part they’re mediocre, catering to the Midtown office-worker craving a reliable delivery of pad thai. For the second time, my plans to eat at Totto were hampered by the long wait. Fortunately, Pure Thai Shophouse happened to be around the corner. This is David and Vanida Bank’s fourth restaurant, intended to evoke the charm of a humble shack in Thailand serving street food. The decor alone was a refreshing escape from the trend of Thai restaurants with  excessively lavish furnishings. The rustic wood planks, unevenly painted walls, and plastic stools to squat on created a boldly unpretentious atmosphere. Against the backdrop of softly-playing Thai pop music, Caritas and I perused the menu.

My first “lesson” helped me settle on the Ratchaburi Crab and Pork Dry Noodles ($10). The portion was  minimal, but the presentation was uncommonly sophisticated for noodles. Both the scallions and the steamed yu choy added a crunch to bowl as well as a bitter, leafy element. Layered on top of the tenderly light egg noodles (hand-made by Vanida) were slices of roasted pork and lump crab meat. The pork was as succulent as it was vibrant, but I was most impressed by the fluffy and subtly sweet chunks of crab. Overall, it was a complex dish of multiple textures and tastes, and left an impression despite its delicacy.

Recommended with the Pure Thai Noodles (their specialty) are the Pork Cracklings ($2.50). The cracklings are definitely good enough to have as a side order by themselves. I enjoyed them most when soaked in the Duck Noodles Soup broth that Caritas ordered. Served crisp and warm, they were a nice distraction from the entree.

Since I’m on a personal mission to find the city’s best Thai Iced Tea, I didn’t think twice before ordering one despite the $4 price. It arrived with crushed ice in a ceramic jar that reminded me of a coconut. The drink was sweetened appropriately, but lacked the depth I was looking for. I would still order it over water though.

If you’ve got a friend whose exposure to Thai food is restricted to pad thai and green curry, you can bring them along as well. The typical items can still be found, though they’re thrown in the back of the menu. To get the full experience, try not to order for delivery. Pure Thai would actually make a decent casual date spot if no one minds squatting on a plastic stool. Just keep in mind that prices can fluctuate significantly based on whether you arrive during lunch or dinner hours. The friendly service, refined menu, and simple charm of Pure Thai makes it an easy favorite of mine.

Pure Thai Shophouse (site) ★★★★★
766 9th Ave (between 51st St & 52nd St) map
New York, NY 10019
Neighborhoods: Hell’s Kitchen, Midtown West, Theater District

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