The Thai Dilemma
I had been wondering about this restaurant called “Song.” It was always packed, had a chic dining room and the utilitarian kitchen is in the front window and always appeared to be in the middle of a grease fire. Before I even discuss the food, I’ll point out that the value is undeniable. You will actually be dumbfounded when you get your check. Any complaint you have will end mid-sentence, when you inspect the bill. I wonder how many reviewer’s punned “Dinner for a Song.” I will not stoop. Let me break it down:
Spicy Noodles – sauté ed fresh flat noodles with mixed vegetables and egg(ordered with no egg of course) in a chili basil sauce…$7.50
Tofu Pad Khing – sauté ed tofu with mushrooms, peppers, cabbage, carrots and onions in a fresh ginger sauce…$7.50
Tofu Tod- fried tofu with a mild chili peanut sauce…$3.95
Special Papaya Salad…$3.95
The whole bill was like 25 bucks. This at a romantic chichi joint. Julia even mentioned, that it “looked expensive” and “will I be okay in jeans.” I must mention the portions were enormous. When we were finished and stuffed, it looked like we barely touched our food. No matter how much we forked in, it would not go away. The tofu tod came on a plate heaped so high, it looked like we were entering a tofu-eating contest. We saw one couple sharing a dish which, by the way is the correct amount of food. Our doggy bag could easily yield four meals.
Maybe they make money off the drinks (Julia and I are teetotaler s so we have no idea and don’t care). We sat next to the open kitchen which was a perfect model of efficiency and usually on fire. It was awesome. Two guys had 8 woks going at all times and the flames would often reach the ceiling. The flames seemed excessive. It made the Benehana’s grill look like an Easy bake oven. How did these chefs not burn their arms and faces every 10 minutes? I have no idea, skill I suppose (note, neither men had beards).
Was it the best Thai I ever had? No, it was not. It fell in that, good, not great category. Julia’s “spicy” noodles lacked burn and my ginger sauced tofu chunks, worked but did not impress. I noticed at the end that most diners had a mini table top sauce station. Perhaps that would have livened things up. You know us, no pain, so lame. I will say the papaya salad was a refreshing and summary alternative to the standard garden variety. Julia claims it contained fish sauce. Here lies the dilemma. Fish sauce is a Thai staple. Fermented fish wine (or fish sauce) is fish (usually sardines fermented for 6 months or more). It is essential for a lot of authentic Thai entrées.
More specifically, our “Thai Dilemma” is this: I suspect fish sauce lives in most Thai food (even in “vegetarian” dishes) so getting a meal that is truly vegan or even vegetarian might be mission impossible. While I’m sure most of it is cooked off (unless it’s on your salad), it really depends on how strict you are. If you have a zero tolerance, maybe you should take Thai off your personal menu. It’s very possible that I am wrong about this. Somebody please investigate because I’m very lazy and sleepy from yet another Song leftover lunch. Song is at 296 5th Ave (btwn 1st and 2nd), that’s Brooklyn baby!