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Negative reports - Tara Thai, El Azteca, and (gasp!) Sweet 'n Tart

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Negative reports - Tara Thai, El Azteca, and (gasp!) Sweet 'n Tart

Michael | Feb 7, 2001 01:52 AM

Consider this a downhill alert on Tara Thai (1st Av. between St. Marks and 9th). It's been a pretty dependable neighborhood restaurant for some time, and I've eaten umpteen meals there, but I was significantly unsatisfied with my last meal there, a dinner. I ordered som tom off the menu and shrimps with basil and hot pepper on the menu. The proprietress (who has known me as a customer for a long time and even knows my name) asked me whether I wanted the som tom medium. I said that was good - medium for the som tom and hot for the shrimps. The som tom came pretty hot, which was fine with me, and it was quite good. The shrimp dish, however, was mostly bell peppers, which are no good for me. It is my fault for not anticipating the likelihood of their presence and requesting an alternative, but I object that the dish had no real heat, that there were few shrimps in the dish, and that the onions in a stir-fry - not a salad - were all raw. I suppose it's possible that lots of rather large pieces of raw regular onions in a stir-fry is some variety of Thai food I have yet to come across in all my years of eating Thai food, but I didn't like it, and won't be returning any time soon.

On Friday night, I went to El Azteca around 10:30 P.M. Nice lime margarita, good salsa, OK guacamole, and chips, but I have a significant objection to the main dish I got: chicken mole. The salsa verde was excellent, but the chicken tasted distinctly old (i.e. spoiled); not enough for me to send it back (I was kind of hungry, etc.), but enough for me to think twice about returning for something other than drinks. And my stomach reacted poorly to the meal, but that could easily have to do with the amount of fat (and probably did), as this also happened vis-a-vis La Palapa, where nothing was the least bit spoiled.

I finally had a mediocre meal at Sweet 'n Tart restaurant on Mott south of Pell, after some very good ones. I saw other white people - and even a Chinese couple - ordering things like sweet and sour pork and wondered whether they're screwing it up for the rest of us (I mean why would you go to Sweet 'n Tart just to get the same damn American-Chinese food you can get at your local takeout?), but I was not satisfied, in any case. The only things that were fully good were the dim sum-type items. My dining partner ordered a seafood dumpling noodle soup; I tried one of his dumplings, which was very tasty. Bamboo pith stuffed with black mushrooms, scallions, carrots, and ginger, which came in a 6-inch diameter bamboo steamer, was also good. However, our main dishes were boring and rather insipid. My dining partner suggested chicken with chives. I usually love Chinese food with chives, and happily agreed, but the dish had as less taste than I thought possible for such a dish. The other main dish I ordered was ginger-scallion lo mein. This is one of my favorite dishes at New York Noodletown. Their version is much better than the oily, rather tasteless stuff they served me at Sweet 'n Tart this past Sunday. I hope that I just ordered the wrong dishes or caught Sweet 'n Tart on an off-day, but I have a sneaking suspicion that chowhounds may have to go elsewhere to have an odds-on chance at a uniformly tasty Chinese meal at this point. It looks to me like the barbarians have crashed the gate and the cook is pandering to the tastes of the Vandals. (No offense to any barbarians or Vandals here, LOL!!)

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