I've been on a three-night losing streak. Friday and Saturday were spent at Chuck E. Cheese's for adults: parties at Noche and Sea Thai (although the fried calamari salad at Noche was terrific). Sunday night, I ate at Mumtaz, on 85th, the Indian restaurant that time forgot. The food was adequate, I guess, but the highlight of the evening was non-food based. My friend asked for a lassi and the waiter replied: "The dog?"
But tonight I broke my losing streak with one of the best Thai meals I've ever had in New York -- at the old Wondee Siam location at 792 9th Ave. It might have been close two years since I had visited Wondee, before the renovation and certainly before the larger sister restaurant opened a block north.
Several Chowhound posts have indicated that the food has improved at Wondee and I heartily agree -- I'm not sure when the food went uphill, or maybe we were lucky with our ordering, but the food was terrific. The only OK dish was the Pla Lemon, a whole red snapper, not particularly tasty itself, in a spicy lemon sauce with garlic and chili that wasn't as robust or sprightly as it sounded on the menu.
The two very good dishes? A proper sticky rice with mango for dessert, and a terrific gai yang (called "BBQ Chicken" here). At least as good as the chicken itself was the "yellow rice," which was clearly cooked in some kind of chicken stock, a heartier version of Hainan chicken rice.
The two knockouts were specials, but one features a sauce that is all over the menu -- crispy pork kra pow (basil, onion, and chili). And the papaya salad was a knockout, properly spicy. Although it didn't contain as many fresh herbs as Sripraphai's, the flavor was better balanced and was the essence of freshness.
It's fascinating to me that Wondee would open a much bigger outpost across the street and up a block and that the cooking at the smaller place would actually improve significantly. Does anyone know the story?
When Pam's Real Thai opened up, I thought it was as good as Wondee, but based on this one meal, I don't think it's close.