Not sure what I was in the mood for at lunch today, I wandered into Wondee Siam (the tiny one on the east side of 9th ave, around 51 or 52nd st). I looked over the regular lunch menu (no surprises here) and then noticed that a family of native thai speakers was sitting at a table near with with a table full of delicious looking food, not much of which seemed to come from the regular menu. I quickly remembered seeing mention of a secret Thai menu that is kept under wraps and is only available if one knows the secret code, handshake, etc. So, i tried to figure out what they were eating....big bowls of soup, with all manner of interesting things submerged therein. Then I noticed on the small specials card on the table, a Tom Sab, (spicy beef soup) special...this seemed like a promising candidate and I suspected might be what some of my neighbors were eating with great relish. Without a second thought, I ordered it--really spicy. My waiter didn't question my order and seemed pleased.
He returned a short while later with a big steaming bowl of very rich broth, redolent with kaffir lime, galanga and all of those perfectly balanced thai flavors, hot, sour, spicy... While the soup was chock full of tripe, which i'm not a huge fan of, it did have some very yummy tender pieces of beef.....and the broth, was so seriously addictive and transcendent....i'm going to be thinking about it for weeks. The soup came with a serving of plain jasmine rice which i thought was a perfect compliment to the fiery, rich broth. It was filling and satisfying, as well as spine tingling...comforting yet adventurous. I only made it through about half of the big bowl before leaving thoroughly satisfied and happy even though tripe and I aren't yet friends.
This experience (on the heels of many other delightful meals) really does put to bed the question of where is the best thai food in Manhattan. Wondee Siam (the little one on the east side of 9th ave in the 50s)....is the real deal. while they have the standard thai restaurant menu and execute all of those dishes very well....there are truly authentic hidden gems to be discovered in this little place.
I urge you to check it out.