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The best Thai restaurants in NYC

Explore funky, complex and challenging flavors at the most outstanding Thai restaurant NYC has to offer

Photograph: Alex Strada
Khao soi at Pok Pok Ny

It seems like there’s a Thai restaurant on every corner in NYC, but there's much to be desired from that greasy pad thai we scarf down from a carton in front of the TV. Though adventurous palates once had to trek to Queens for authentic flavors, these days, you can find delicious regional fare including noodles, satay skewers and papaya salads in neighborhoods like Soho to Red Hook. From nouveau interpretations to classic mom-and-pop cheap eats spots, find the best Thai restaurant NYC has to offer.

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Best Thai restaurants in NYC

Arunee Thai Cuisine

Beware: What Arunee's menu calls "medium spicy" is hellaciously hot. Chili peppers are sprinkled on top of many dishes, including yum pla muk, tender squid mixed with celery and lemongrass. More delicate tongues can rest easy with the rich, mild panang chicken-and-vegetable curry.

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Queens

Ayada

The menu of this pretty little Thai restaurant attracts foodies citywide: Not only does it span the culinary regions of Thailand, but it includes some Japanese twists, too, thanks to the owners’ experience working in Bangkok’s Japanese hotels. Even if you skip the sushi-inspired dishes (like the oft-namechecked raw shrimp appetizer), the spicy, incredibly complex curries (around $7) are still a radical departure from most pad thai–pushing joints.

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Queens

Kuma Inn

A clandestine second-floor location makes this dinner-only spot feel like a true find. Chef King Phojanakong channels his culinary pedigree (including stints at Daniel and Danube), along with his Thai and Filipino heritage, into elegantly presented small plates, such as an omelette studded with plump Washington Bay oysters, and hunks of seared ahi tuna luxuriating in a spicy miso vinaigrette. Desserts like the coconut ginger rice pudding, and a custardy twist on key lime pie made with kalamansi, might inspire you to keep your discovery close to your vest.

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Lower East Side

Pam Real Thai Food

There's no apostrophe s, but there's definitely a real Pam—Bangkok native Pam Panyasiri. The restaurant is a family affair: Her contractor husband built the space, and her son, Timmy, manages it. You want authentic? Pam serves durian. Many Asian airlines have banned the Malaysian fruit because its smell is so vile, but Panyasiri warms its custardy flesh—stifling the stench and heightening its natural sweetness—and serves it atop coconut sticky rice.

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Hell's Kitchen

Pig and Khao

The Southeast Asian honky-tonk is fast becoming a food-world cliché. Pig and Khao might have seemed audacious once, but it comes across as mostly derivative today. Run by former Top Chef contender Leah Cohen, the joint has a familiar setup, with plenty of canned beer, hot chilies and hip-hop. Chef Leah Cohen has been turning diners on to funky Southeast Asian flavors since 2012. The pig-centric menu features dishes like Sizzling Sisig, Pork Jowl with Brussels Sprouts, Khao Soi, Thai Curry Chicken Wings and more. Enclosed backyard seating is available year-round, and the restaurant prepares a traditional Filipino brunch on the weekends with bottomless mimosas.

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Lower East Side

Pok Pok Ny

What separates Pok Pok from other cultish Thai restaurants, like Sripraphai in Queens, is the curatorial role of Andy Ricker, its minutiae-mad chef. Ricker, who flavors the water here with pandanus leaf and presses his own coconuts for cream, focuses mostly on the funky fare of northern Thailand. His long menu—concise by Thai restaurant standards—features a beautifully burnished and terrifically succulent barbecued hen. Ricker goes the extra mile to get the condiments right. He accompanies the room-temperature pork neck slices in his “Thai drinking food,” muu kham waan with raw mustard greens delivered under a crunch-intensifying heap of crushed ice. Even his cha ca “La Vong,” a geographic anomaly from across the border in Vietnam, is a spot-on reproduction of the original dish, a cult favorite from Hanoi featuring spiced catfish, rice vermicelli, and generous handfuls of fresh dill and mint. The desserts here are as much cultural artifacts as everything else.

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Cobble Hill

Somtum Der

If the refreshing flavors of Somtum Der are any indication, Isan cuisine is the antidote to the too-sweet noodles Americans commonly mistake for Thai food. Take a seat in the bright, wood-paneled dining room, and soon you’ll see why the restaurant, which also boasts locations in Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City, recently earned a Michelin star. Som tum is the namesake dish of the eatery, a papaya salad made in several variations. Choose the Tum Thai Kai Kem. It’s flecked with bits of soft-cooked, salted egg yolks, which provide a soothing counterpoint to the heat of the chilies. It hurts so good, so get it as spicy as you can stand.

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East Village

Sripraphai

Woodside's destination eatery offers distinctive, traditional eats like catfish salad or green curry with beef: a thick, piquant broth filled out with roasted Thai eggplant. The dining rooms, which sprawl out over two levels and a garden, are packed with lip-smacking Manhattanites who can be seen eyeing the plates enjoyed by the Thai regulars, mentally filing away what to order the next time.

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Woodside

Uncle Boons

Uncle Boons is the latest in a riptide of upstarts repackaging homey Asian food. At this dark-wood-paneled rathskeller, you’ll find tap wine and beer slushes and vintage Thai flatware carved from teak and brass. The stereo blares old Thai covers of ’70s American pop and rock. And the kitchen has fine-dining muscle: Husband-and-wife team Matt Danzer and Ann Redding met while cooking at Per Se. Danzer and Redding (who is from Thailand) have unburdened themselves with a close reading of tradition. Take their rendition of larb (laab neuh gae), which instead of the usual chicken, duck, beef or pork, highlights a more chefly protein: lamb. You’re caught off guard when the trinity of that meat, cucumber and mint first hits you.

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Nolita

Wondee Siam II

Chowhounds rhapsodize about both Wondees with an enthusiasm that borders on mania. At the sit-down sibling to the original take-out operation, the food is deliciously authentic—a welcome change from standard satays and noodles. Spicy fried catfish is loaded with red pepper, basil, kaffir leaves and slices of Thai eggplant, while Shrimp on Fire is simply a literal description: Six impressive jumbos are doused with rum-and-tamarind sauce and set aflame.

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Hell's Kitchen

Zabb Elee

Although Thai menus in America can seem homogeneous, the country’s cuisine is rather diverse. Which is why there’s a good chance you won’t recognize much of the fare at Zabb Elee. The low-key basement spot focuses on the fiery, funky foods of northern Thailand, and the roster is a challenging one, with categories like tod (fried meats), som tum (papaya salads) and yang (grilled meats) making up the more than five dozen choices. You wanted real Thai food, it taunts, let’s see what you’ve got. How about a tiny skewer of blackened gizzards? The snack features chicken parts obliterated over an open flame. Red-curry fish custard (hor mok) is light like a seafood soufflé, and the fried chicken (kai tod) offers succulent meat marinated in a tenderizing mix of Thai herbs and lime.

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East Village
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Comments

3 comments
mafeloreto
mafeloreto tastemaker

Pig and Khao isn't thai food guys

Tyler M
Tyler M

Noodle bar isn't on this list? What a sham.

passnia
passnia

How about Senn Thai Comfort food?