Sunday, April 02, 2006

Now That's Real Thai

We've been eating out a lot this week. I ain't complaining. Especially when we're getting meals like this one.

Pam Real Thai Food on West 49th St. might have just provided the best Thai dinner Margy and I have ever had. We started with these incredible fried fish cakes, spicy with red curry paste and fragrant with lemongrass. They have a unique texture -- dense and not easily cut with a fork (hence the knife), yet tender to the bite. We were delighted to have eight of them, but then we were just as sad to see them go so fast.

We followed those with som tum, which is shredded papaya salad with lime juice and crunchy-chewy peanuts. My goodness. Entrees were prawns with chili sauce and pad kra prow, or crispy duck with basil, garlic, and chilies. (I realized later that we'd unconsciously repeated the duck/shrimp pattern from Monday's Chinese dinner with my mom and sister. But duck isn't something I make at home, so I never need much of an excuse to order it in a restaurant.) The chili sauce for the prawns was unlike any chili sauce I'd had previously. Instead of being sweet and red with a relishlike consistency, it was a gorgeous thick brown paste threaded with basil leaves, fresh and subtly hot. The duck knocked it out of the park -- crispy, spicy, a little salty... I could have stopped yet I ate it until nothing was left.

The ingredients were fresh and handled with care. That plus the level of nuance was what impressed me the most about Pam Thai. If many Thai restaurants paint with primary colors, this place has a full palette of detailed shades, from pale to bright -- and knows how to use a background of rich flavors to spotlight the main ingredient at the foreground.

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