We went there for the first time and I was underwhelmed. It was certainly good, certainly "authentic", but...
I thought the crispy catfish papaya salad was sort of one-dimensional. The fried catfish just tasted like fried taro, not a trace of fish flavor or texture. Is it supposed to be that way? The rest of the salad was very fresh, fishy and tangy, but that's about it. We've had a better version of this sort of thing at Chao Thai in Elmhurst and a far better, more complex, downright transporting version at Zabb in Jackson Heights.
Similar story with the crispy pork with chili and basil: unquestionably fresh ingredients, some bright flavors, but Zabb's version had more to it: more heat, more sweet, more sour punch, and meat so textured and rich I initially thought it was duck.
A noodle dish from the list of specials, with cubes of stewed pork in a northern curry gravy and chopped vegetables, was just dull. It would have been disappointing even at a neighborhood takeout.
An appetizer of mussels with basil was very good. Big, tender, flavorful mussels in a broth full of lemongrass and basil flavor, and they came to life with the green minced-pepper condiment. Still, it was steamed mussels. I got the feeling I'd get the same results at home with little effort.
Spicing was a problem too, across the board. The four of us are all keen on heat, made it very clear that we wanted the spicy dishes done Thai-hot, and what we got was mild-to-medium at best. The other couple we were with sent another chili-basil dish back to the kitchen and it came back both hotter and more flavorful, which surprised me because I thought that sort of doctoring after the fact wouldn't go well, but the result still was well short of the riot of colliding flavors Zabb mustered on our two visits.
Did we order wrong? I've seen at least the catfish salad listed among the highly recommended dishes before, but did we otherwise go astray?