When you think of “Thai food” here in the US, most of us would think “Pad Thai” or “Pad See Ew” or some kind of noodle or rice dish. Most of them brown with typical sauce that they put on it. Sadly, most of us have become so numb to the typical offerings that we start to believe that is all there is to Thai food. But, this is where the greatness of New York City comes in. Not only you can enjoy so many varieties of cuisines in the city, but also, you can find a real, authentic places as well. When we started to look for more authentic That restaurant, we kept seeing the name Uncle Boons. With high review and intriguing menu, we headed out for some Thai adventure.
I got there shortly after they opened for the evening, but it was already half way full. When you enter, there is a host/hostess station, and the rest of the room was filled with a bar. The hostess (young female) would not let me get a table since my husband was not there yet. I sat at an empty small table near the bar while I wanted. As I waited, I notice the hostess was so much nicer to any other male patrons who walked in with/without out reservation… She would ask if they wanted to hang their coats (I had coat too!) and if they wanted to wait at the bar while waiting for his friend to arrive (really?). This gave me a really bad taste in my mouth, but I tried to be strong…anticipating a good meal to set my mood back to positive.
They had many interesting photos and paintings on the wall by the host/hostess station. It was fun looking at them while I was waiting for my hubby. They had one fancy table by the window at the front, with glossy floral print. They had two more very small tables between the bar and floral table, made of thick wood, which was cool. Even thought the hostess was super rude to me, a waiter came over asking me if I wanted to look over a menu, and if I wanted water. He was very nice and made me feel welcome in my thick coat.
The adjoining room next to the bar was a small dining area. They take very minimum reservation, so it is not easy getting a table here unless you make the reservation two weeks in advance (the earliest they will take reservation is two weeks from the date you want to reserve a table). It had long red brick wall, wood furniture, and more interesting pictures on the wall. Very cozy and homey.
The place got packed pretty quick. We were offered to have the small table near the door, or a counter seat at the bar. We decided to sit at the bar, we thought it is better (a bit more spacious). They had bamboo placemat, thin wooden plate, and fork and spoon at each seat. Here is a quick dining etiquette for utensils when it comes to authentic Thai cuisine. Chopsticks are NOT traditionally used in Thailand, except when eating Chinese dishes in a Chinese restaurant. I know that most of Americanized Thai restaurant have chopsticks for customers, but this really is not traditional. But, you can of course use chopsticks to eat noodles, IF they are provided. Just don’t ask for them if they’re not present. Another thing is that in Thailand, ONLY spoons and forks are used, NEVER knives. So, how do your cut thing? Use the side of your spoon, then use the fork if spoon is not doing the cutting well. If you are right-handed, keep the spoon in your right hand and the fork in your left. Gather the food with fork onto the spoon, and eat off the spoon. Ok, you are all set!
We started the night off with some beer. I ordered Chang ($7), which is a Thailand lager beer from Cosmos Brewery. It was golden color, light and easy to drink. Great accompaniment to spicy meal. They don’t have strong flavor, so not to fight against a very flavorful dish. I liked their logo of the two elephants facing each other under a tree (?).
My husband ordered Beer Slushies ($8), made from the same, Chang beer. From the moment they serve you, you have maybe about 5 second before you need to start drinking it. Otherwise, a foamy slushy will start to overflow from the bottle. So, what is beer slushy? It is a popular drink in Thai, from what I heard, but still kind of new in the US. It is a super fun, bubbly, super cold drink, with a consistency of snow and jelly mixed together.
Now you want to know how they are made, right? Me too! The bartenders (who were super awesome) were nice enough to tell us the secret. They had this intricately carved barrel on the floor. And this is where the magic happens. It was slowly spinning back and forth, and keeps on going until it is stopped. After doing my research, I’ve learned that the barrel is filled with ice, salt, and yes, beer bottles. The combination of spinning/rocking motion, ice and salt keeps the beer from freezing in the below-freezing temperature. Once the beer bottle is removed from the barrel and popped open, the rapidly changing temperature and pressure causes supercooling reaction, which turns the beer in the inside the bottle into slushie, and start foaming upwards, begging you to start drinking!
For food, we wanted to taste few different items, so we thought of ordering small dishes. But, there are few things off the Large Plates section that we really wanted to try, so we decided to order just one small plate. We chose Sai Krok Ampai ($8), which is a grilled Issan pork & rice sour sausage. Noted as “Mommy Pai’s recipe!” Who can say no to that? This item is off their Charcoal Grilled Goodies (Ahaan Yang), and I heard anything from this section is extra awesome. One large sausage came out on a dish on top on pickled cabbage, enhancing the sour flavor. The sausage was so plump and juicy, with fluffy texture from the rice. It is meaty but not too meaty, as it contains sticky rice mixed in it. The sausage is house-made, so it has that home-cooked feel to it. Very delicious and comforting.
For the main, we ordered Khao Soi Kaa Kai ($21), a golden curry, and Kao Pat Puu ($26), crab fried rice.
The Khao Soi Kaa Kai is a Northern style golden curry with homemade egg noodles, chicken leg, pickled mustard greens and fresh tumeric. You can also order this in Vegetarian style. This was a perfect comfort food, especially on a cold day. It was a bowl full of warm, home-y, and super delicious goodness. It contains hand-rolled egg noodles that you can see it is homemade with its imperfections. The chicken leg was braised until it is so tender, it literally falls off the bones. The pickled shallots and mustard greens were really nice also, adding extra flavor and texture. It also had some crunchy noodles on top, adding the light and crisp texture, until they soak up the yummy curry soup. The quality so high, it was a bowl of gold, as gold as its color. The curry had good amount of spicy-ness to it, but if you need it to be spicier, you can add the little red sauce that came with it. I tasted the sauce just a tiny little bit, and let me tell you, it was super, crazy spicy! I hear authentic Thai food is (or could be) really spicy, but seriously, they don’t joke around.
We see fried rice on Thai restaurant menu, but again, brown and boring. Here at Uncle Boons, they obviously does not do brown nor boring. Kao Pat Puu has one of the best fried rice I’ve had, aside from the one we had at Decoy (you can read about it here: http://www.foodlovergirl.com/decoy/). And it was true to its name, “Crab” fried rice, it had large chunks of crab meat in it. I have seen some other not-so-great crab fried rice elsewhere, with such small amount of crab meat that you have to dig to search for a small piece. Here, you get a nice chunk with every bite. The rice was fluffy, packed with seafood flavor. This one also had a side of sauce, which was really, really, REALLY spicy. Adding a tiny little drop on it does indeed enhance the flavor, but I could not handle much more than that. It was an amazing fried rice, with or without the spicy sauce.
The portion of the large plates are not so “large” so we decided to add one more small plate item, Khao Gun Jiin ($8), which is a Thai style blood sausage, Kaffir lime and herbs wrapped in banana leaf. If we knew we were going to order both of their sausages, we could have ordered “Thai Sausage Duo” for $15, but hey, that is ok. We live and we learn. This one had a really deep color, and the bartender told us we need to mix them all together and eat it. So here is the before and after the mix photos. It had a very distinctive, strong flavor. Every exotic taste of blood sausage and herbs. The sausage was a bit gamey, but the refreshing flavors from lime and herb balanced it out.
At this point, we were getting full, but we couldn’t resist trying out their dessert. And, we had to balance out the spicy food with some sweetness afterwords, right? Yes that was our excuse for having desserts (multiple) when we were already full. They don’t have a set dessert menu, so ask the server what they have for that day. We ordered their infamous Coconut Ice Cream Sundae ($8) and Milk Toast ($5). The Sundae is a good size, enough to share among two people. It is bedazzled with whipped cream, candied peanuts, toasted coconut, and tea cracker. I heard that this is a typical way old-fashioned ice cream parlors in Bangkok will serve their treats. How fun! It had so many different textures and flavors, but it all came together in perfect harmony. The fluffy whipped cream, salty and sweet candied peanuts, crunchy and a bit chewy toasted coconut, all on top of creamy, velvety ice cream…you get the picture.
The milk toast was another fun dessert. They make their milk toast with toasted brioche, condensed milk, and crème brûlée. Needless to say it is sweet. Really sweet. The brioche was sliced nice and thick, and cut criss-cross into four pieces. It was like a crème brûlée French toast with tres leches cake flavor added on to it. I know, crazy awesome, right? The brioche was still very fluffy and airy, even thought it had so much of sweet flavor on it. It was not soggy at all.
Then, the bartenders told us something that we can do to even upgrade the milk toast. This can only be done if you ordered the milk toast AND coconut ice cream sundae together. What you do is to put some (most) of the ice cream on top of this warm milk toast, and eat them together. And guess what? They were absolutely right!!!! This sweet goodness has gone to heaven and became a sweet angel! We certainly made people around us pretty jealous. Each bite was heavenly…
The bartenders (male and female) were both awesome, and they were both Thai, which makes it even better. They gave us real, helpful, honest recommendation on food and how to eat them, and they were really friendly and fun. The female bartender, Pitcharee, mostly took care of us, and she was super cool. I am so grateful that this wonderful city of New York offers such amazing authentic food! My view of Thai food has been forever changed. And yes, definitely for the better! The price for the Large Plates for the portion received might be seen as high, but the quality and flavor, it is sooooo great! It really is worth every penny. I can’t wait to go back to Uncle Boons again for more amazing food!
Uncle Boons – 7 Spring St, New York, NY 10012