85 Ave A (between 5th and 6th St, East Village/Alphabet City)
Fatty Kat Eats: Thai Iced Tea, H'orderves Der, Moo Ping Kati Sod, Sa Poak Kai Tod Der, Khao Klook Ka Pi, Larb Moo, Larb Pla Kook Yang, Grilled Sticky Rice
Finally! An East Village Thai spot that: 1) is freaking awesome, 2) looks awesome, 3) tastes super awesome, and 4) won't break the bank...awesome. I'd all but given up on the city's cookie cutter Thai restaurants until Uncle Boons, Somtum Der and Pig and Khao came along. Thankfully, these restaurants have reinvented the Thai eating experience by indulging in beautiful spaces, unfamiliar dishes and ingredients, good service and hygiene.
I brought a whole gang of fatties with me on this expedition. Sharing is caring! And all 7 of us definitely care about food. Shout outs and thanks for being fat with me: Bova, Danny, Matty, Selena, Neil and Viv!
We started out with a few TGIF drinks, and I couldn't help but order the lovely Thai Iced Tea. I often find too much condensed milk and sugar in these things, but that wasn't the case here. I loved the robust black tea flavor, which stood out among the right balance of cream and sugar.
The H'orderves Der was a pu pu platter of all the deep fried appetizers: Fried Sausage, Fried Pork Roll, Deep-Fried Sun-dried Pork, Deep-Fried Sun-dried Beef, Marinated Raw Pork Sausages. And yes, that's some butchered spelling on the menu. This sampler plate needs a better name, because it certainly wasn't as greasy as it sounds. My favorite was the soft Fried Pork Roll, which most of us mistook for tofu. I wasn't a huge fan of the Marinated Raw Pork Sausage but it was worth a try!
The Moo Ping Kati Sod (coconut milk marinated beef and pork skewers) made me want to dance for joy. I pretty much stopped short of hopping on our table to express my fatty delight. The coconut flavor was so heavily infused in the meat that I almost forgot I was eating pork and beef. I've never had skewers like this, and I don't think I ever will unless it's at Somtum Der. They ruined all other skewers for me, but I don't care!
Our adorable old man server said the Sa Poak Kai Tod Der (fried chicken) was better than KFC. It was clearly 100x better than KFC. Plus, if you must compare, at least compare yourself to Popeyes, please! This fried chicken was covered in a light and fluffy batter, which became wonderfully brittle upon entering the fried underworld. If Beyonce was a chicken, these would be her thighs--plump, succulent and sexy!
For a place named after somtum (papaya salad), the Tum Thai Kai Kem (papaya salad with salted egg) was good...but just good. Selena and I love salted egg thanks to our Shanghainese swag, so we were keen on trying the somtum with our favorite funky eggs. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough salted egg yolk to go around (aka the only part you eat of a salted egg). This salad didn't make a huge impression on me but probably because I was dreaming of the Green Mango Salad at Pig and Khao. Yes, it was spicy and crunchy; but no, it was not pungent enough; not like the somtum I found in Thailand.
Wham, bam, thank you ma'am. This is what I call do-it-yourself fried rice. It hit our table and disappeared like that. The delicious Khao Klook Ka Pi (rice with fermented shrimp paste) came with all the goodies: scallions, long green beans, cucumbers, egg and shallots. We also had a hard time figuring out what else we were actually eating; turns out it was sweet/savory pork and shrimp powder. The shrimpy rice was massively pungent and served as the perfect canvas for all the sides.
When we asked our server about the Goong Chae Nam Pla (shrimp sashimi with chilis), he said it was just ok. Love the honesty, but I also think he tailored his response in thinking we weren't adventurous enough. Um...hello? We're already eating raw sausages and you're worried about shrimp sashimi?! The shrimp wasn't as silky as my typical botan ebi, but it got by with more than a passing grade. All the mumbo jumbo on top was very spicy, but we managed thanks to the calming coconut flavor.
I usually don't like food that sounds like "lard," but this larb stuff is incredible. We tried the Larb Moo (pork) and Larb Pla Kook Yang (catfish), which were both bomb diggity. These minced meat salads were 80% meat and 20% salad. We liked those ratios! The lime juice, fermented fish sauce, onions and crazy herbs created mini explosions in our mouths. There were several sharp, robust flavors that dominated this dish on equal playing fields so it wasn't overwhelming!
We ended our meal with the Grilled Sticky Rice which was just as good as dessert would have been. Apparently, they ran out of dessert at lunch, but we suspect they wanted to turn our table. It's unfathomable how you can pack so much creamy flavor in a nub of sticky rice. The hint of coconut-y sweetness really topped it off for me. I love coconut too much. It's almost scary.
So glad I went to Somtum Der with a big group of fatties. We were able to try a ton of different things and the meal was incredibly rea$onable. The kitchen needs to work on its timing. All the food literally came out within 5 minutes of ordering, and it was too overwhelming and chaotic. I know the restaurant wants to make cash money, but let your customers actually sit down and savor the food! Other than that, fatties, eat on!