Pure Thai Cookhouse: New York, New York

I know I haven’t posted in quite sometime. A lot of things have happened and I’ve hit some road blocks – questioning a lot of things and figuring out priorities.

Today I’m back. Things are looking up and all is well.
Instead of trying to recapture things over the last few months (follow my Instagram feed @annasappetite – I’ll keep you posted of what I eat and what I do on the daily there). I’m going to talk about some places that really inspired me to post again.

I was in NYC for work a couple weeks ago and since I was on a time crunch, I wanted to find a restaurant that was accessible, cheap, ethnic (that wasn’t well represented Calgary), and had a high Urbanspoon rating.
I wasn’t asking for much was I?  Atlas, I found a place that really called out to me, Pure Thai Cookhouse

Pure Thai Cookhouse is located in the Hell’s Kitchen area – the very west side of Midtown West in Manhattan on 9th Ave between W 51st Street and W 52nd Street.

As the name states, it’s a Thai restaurant but rumours has it that the folks that own Pure Thai Cookhouse used to work in the kitchen of Jean-George’s – so my expectations were high.
Upon entering , the restaurant reminds me of the shacks that used to sell noodles by the streets in Thailand.
The sound of Thai pop music from the late nineties/early millennium brings memories of my teenage years when I used to wonder the malls in Bangkok with my mom. Even hearing the staff speak Thai just reminds me of the part of myself that I feel I sometimes slowly forget.

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Eating at the noodle station!

Walking in felt familiar because the aesthetic traits  you see in this restaurant are what’s typical of any Southeast Asian noodle vendor.   I mean seriously, look at the stools!

Like a lot of New York restaurants this place is pretty cozy.

Like a lot of New York restaurants this place is pretty cozy.

Just to let you know, I came here 3 times during my trip.  That’s how much I loved it.

I highly suggest getting here early for both lunch and dinner service.  They don’t take reservations so if you get here during peak service hours expect to wait.

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The ladies at the noodle station in Pure Thai Cookhouse.

Pure Thai Cookhouse has a menu that consisted of typical street food like dumplings, curries, and stir fries.  What we were mainly interested in was noodles.  The whole time we were here, we just ate their noodles as it’s hard to find a variety Thai noodles.

Thai Iced Tea

Thai Iced Tea (sorry,  I wish I had better pictures of this tea…)

I had to get their Thai Iced Tea.  This was unbelievably delicious.  This tea alone makes me want to come back over and over.  It’s sweet and creamy basically like milk tea but has a great tea flavour that stands out.  To me it’s slightly more floral than your typical black tea.  In comparison, it’s much more flavourful than your Hong Kong style Milk Tea.  I personally think this tastes much better.

Sukothai Pork Noodles

Sukhothai Pork Noodles:  Thin Rice Noodles, Roasted Pork, Long Bean, Bean Sprouts, Peanuts , Tofu and Pork Broth. 

Ben ordered the Sukhothai Pork Noodles that comes with a pork broth.  The first thing that came to mind when I tried this was that it tasted like Pad Thai.  Well, the flavours are remarkably similar to Pad Thai.  You can taste the tamarind in the broth, it’s also on the sweeter side and the peanuts gave it that crunch that you would find topped on Pad Thai.  It wasn’t my favourite bowl of noodles here but it made me curious as to how the other ones would taste.

Flat noodles

Krabi Seafood Noodle Soup:  Flat Rice Noodles, Shrimp, Squid, Water Spinach, Bean Curd, Fermented Tofu, Fish Balls, and Tomato Pork Broth.  

“not recommended for novices- please, no returns”

Haha,  this bowl of Krabi Seafood Noodle is not for the novice.  I ordered this because the above quote  was written beside the item description,  and as a kid, I didn’t like this dish.   I figured my palate has evolved since then and wanted to give this bowl of noodles a second chance.   Thankfully, my palate has evolved and this was great bowl of noodles.  First off, what distinguishes this bowl of noodles to the rest is it’s colour.  In Thailand I remembered thinking to myself,  “wow, why is the soup so pink?”.   You can’t really tell in this photo but the broth is bright pink .  I don’t know why, but I found it a little weird.

Unlike the previous one, this was a little subtle in sourness and tasted a little more earthy.  The noodles were not the long skinny kind that we’re so used too.  They were rice noodles but triangular in shape which when cooked, curls up like a croissant and is more dense in texture.  The fermented tofu flavour wasn’t as prominent as you would think, it too was subtle but gave the broth a nice savouriness that balanced out the slightly sour tomato pork broth.  It did have a hint of sweetness to the broth to give it a little more depth, and even though it was listed as spicy on the menu but I don’t ever remember it being overly spicy where you felt like you needed to reach for your glass of water.   I personally really liked this bowl of noodles.  It had a good balance of all flavours and came with a lot of toppings like fish balls, squid, fish patties, shrimp and even a piece of  white woodear fungus (it’s a type of shroom).

Deep Fried Tofu with Tamarind Sauce

Deep Fried Tofu with Tamarind Sauce

The 2nd time we came, we came during dinner service.  Funny enough,  this place was Ben and I’s second dinner.  We previous ate else where and after walking across town back to the hotel, we got hungry.

This time we ordered an appetizer,  the Deep Fried Tofu with Tamarind Sauce.   We ordered this because in China I had a version where it was deep fried tofu paired with mint leaves and dipped in a garlic vinegar.  It was delicious and I wanted to know how the Thai version tasted in comparison.

The fried tofu was alright, it’s was soft on the inside and not so crispy on the outside.  Of course the main star is the sauce.  Tamarind has a unique flavour.  It’s sour, yet earthy and with added sugar had some depth.  The sauce was tasty.  Very tart but sweet and the roasted peanuts definitely gave it more of a crunch with a slight smokiness.  This was delicious.

This time Ben wanted to order their dried noodles.  From what I’ve read in blogs and reviews, this was one of their popular dishes.

Ratchaburi Crab and Pork Thai Noodles

Ratchaburi Crab and Pork Thai Noodles:  handmade noodles, roasted pork, lump crab meat, yu choy and scallions 

Ratchaburi Crab and Pork Thai Noodles were highly recommended by many folks online.  The wheat based noodles were cooked perfectly al dente and are tossed in some seasoned pork drippings which I found a little too sweet for my taste.  I would suggest to drizzle some of their pickled green chillies from their condiment jar to give it a little more acidity and kick.  The roasted pork was just alright, it was tender and the portions were huge.  The lump crab was quite sweet and meaty, and I definitely enjoyed that.  I’m actually amazed on the generous portions of pork and crab they gave us in this bowl.  Overall, this didn’t meet my expectations based on many of the customer reviews.   I expected it a little more savoury than sweet.

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Pa-Yao Beef Noodles:  vermicelli noodles, beef balls, bean sprouts,  braised beef, Chinese celery, Chinese broccoli,  galangal pandan broth.  

I felt like soupy noodle’s that night so I ended up choosing their Pa-Yao Beef Noodles.  Based on the ingredients, I had a pretty good idea on how the flavours of this dish would be, and at the end it didn’t disappoint.  First off I love the vermicelli noodles they used.  There’s a variety of vermicelli noodles out there, these ones are Hokkein/Chaozhou style vermicelli where the noodles are thinner and have a bit of a crunch to them.  The broth was light but had great galangal flavours which actually complimented the beefiness of the broth.  It had just the right amount of saltiness too, but like most Thai dishes it did have a hint of sweetness but not as sweet as some of the other noodles dishes.   I also love the fact that they used Chinese celery as a garnish.  This is a garnish is much stronger than your western counterpart, but at the same time gives off these refreshing crisp flavours.  The beef  itself were tender, especially the stewed ones, they were melt in your mouth amazing.  I would highly suggest the Pa-Yao Beef Noodles for someone who wants to try noodles here for the first time.

We ended the night with dessert which happens to be a Pumpkin Custard with Sticky Rice.

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Pumpkin Custard with Coconut Sticky Rice wrapped in Banana Leaf ($7)

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Pumpkin Custard {side view, up close and personal}

This is some legit shit here folks.  It’s been ages since I’ve had sticky rice for dessert.  First off,  the top is the Pumpkin Custard and if memory serves me correctly it is a custard generally made from steamed pumpkin, eggs, palm sugar and coconut milk which is then baked to golden perfection.  Here they decided to lay it over top a bed of steamed sticky rice (glutinous rice) that’s wrapped in a banana leaf and believe me sticky rice taste better when wrapped in a banana leaf.  Coconut milk (which is seasoned with salt) is drizzled over top to offset the sweetness of the custard.  The sticky rice is a great vessel to carry these flavours as the sticky itself has a underlaying umami flavour to it.   I loved this so much,  if I wasn’t so full I would have gotten two orders.

So we’ve been here for lunch and dinner, and before our flight back home to Calgary…. we need just one more meal in.

Iced Coffee

Thai Iced Coffee

Thai Iced Coffee was good, but in all honesty I prefer the Thai Iced Tea.  I just find the tea much more flavourful than their coffee.

Condiments

Typical Thai Condiments (clockwise from the top):  Fish Sauce, Sugar, Chilli Flakes,  pickled sliced Chillies in vinegar.

You’ll find all of these condiments in the street stalls around Thailand.  I remember once my Uncle would add a few teaspoons of everything in each bowl – regardless of noodles.  It’s a Thai thing I guess.

Pa-yao Beef Lunch

Pa-yao Beef Noodles for lunch! (sorry, for the slightly fuzzy photo)

I’m telling you,  get the Pa-Yao Beef Noodles.  Had to get another bowl of these noodles, also note that they do give you a side of hot sauce to dip your meat into.

Duck Noodles

Nakore-Patom Duck Noodle Soup:  thin rice noodles, braised duck, bean sprouts, Chinese celery, and five spice broth 

Ahhhh,  the last noodle on the menu.  This is the Nakron-Patom Duck Noodle Soup.  Duck noodles in Thailand have always been my favourite.  Every time my family on a trip to Thailand,  the one thing they would take me to eat is a stall right across from the local market that sold Duck Noodles.  The braised duck is similar to that of Lo Sui Duck (old water duck aka. soy marinated duck),  it’s a very Chiu Chow thing (Thailand just happens to have a huge Chiu Chow Chinese population and you can see that in their food).   Basically the broth is flavoured by the braising sauce of the duck,  so it has a slight sweet soy taste with that hint of anise.  Love this bowl,  it took me right back to my childhood holidays.  I would suggest to those who like it spicy, to add the chilli flakes in this dish.  Gives it a nice kick.  The duck itself was tender and they were decent size pieces, and the noodles were cooked perfectly.  Actually, all the noodles I’ve had here have all been cooked perfectly.  Never too underdone, never too overdone.

Overall,  I would totally eat here again.  Given that I’ll be in this particular area of NYC when I go for work,  this would definitely be a restaurant that I would return too over and over.  The prices for noodles are mainly under $12.00 a bowl.  The staff and service has always been great, never too overbearing and never ignoring.  The food comes out hot and fast, and the line to get in moves quite quick.  There will be times when it’s super full and you might have to share a table with other people, but I find New Yorkers always so friendly, and always so cool.  🙂

Pure Thai Cookhouse on Urbanspoon

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