Since it opened 12 years ago, Pam Real Thai has left Chowhounds divided. Fresh reports suggest that its detractors may be missing something.
A couple of months after the closure of nearby spin-off Pam Real Thai Encore—a downsizing that might have refocused the kitchen at the original place—thegforceny reports that the catfish pad ped (sautéed with curry paste, chiles, lime leaves, and Thai eggplant) is "crazy spicy with a great, sourish flavor. They did NOT dumb it down." Khao soi is "plain DELICIOUS," she adds, a rich coconut broth with freshly fried noodles that didn't wilt in the hot soup. Another fan, buttertart, says highlights of her recent meal there included savory oxtail soup with a pleasing tamarind tang; yum nam sod (ground pork with peanuts and ginger in tart, salty lime dressing); and yum crispy duck (pictured), fried to a baconlike crunch and tossed in tamarind-chile sauce with pineapple.
Dissenters say Pam Real Thai pulls its punches in spicing. Pan complains that his emphatic requests for full-on seasoning have been "disregarded as 'white man's lips moving.'" But buttertart, who's not Thai either, says she's asked for in-your-face heat and gotten it. "I know this restaurant is distinctly and repeatedly unadmired" on Chowhound, she adds, "but I've been eating Thai food here, in the Bay Area, and abroad since the '80s, and this was better than anything but the very top level. Including the sacrosanct SriPraPhai."
Pam Real Thai [Hell's Kitchen]
404 W. 49th Street (between Ninth and Tenth avenues), Manhattan
Photo by Chowhound user buttertart