I watched Thai Market (here), now one of my favorite restaurants, grow since it first opened in 2007 on Amsterdam Avenue (between 107th and 108th). The neighborhood was fully ready for a restaurant with some flair and style, but easy enough for your daily, no-big-investment dining needs.
Thai Market is a breath of fresh air. Inside, the main wall is a large photo mural of food stalls in the streets in Bangkok, and there is more large scale street photography all over the place. Combine that with bright red, and you have the attempt to achieve a modern look. Admittedly, it’s rather inconsistent, for some of the red comes in umbrellas, and so on. So, you shouldn’t look too closely at the décor. But the feel is there: Thai Market is a contemporary, unpretentious, and un-costumy place.
The food is the same: let’s call it contemporary New York Thai. Beautiful and pure. The vegetables are crisp and fresh, you see all the ingredients on your plate. They have an incredibly inexpensive lunch special for 8$. This sounds like it has to be fast food, but it is not. It’s well-prepared ‘real’ food. I persuaded Jens to meet me at Thai Market for a late lunch. He had tiny Vegetable Spring Rolls with carrot sauce and Green Curry, and insists that he shall always have the same. My own, rather unspectacular choice usually is Kow Pad (fried rice with various vegetables, chicken, and so on). For me, Kow Pad is the kind of food that is basic in the best kind of way, like pasta: you can always eat it, and even though it’s simple, there are a million things that can be better or worse about it. Thai Market’s Kow Pads are perfect: light and lemony, entirely ungreasy. However, I’ve also had more sophisticated, and very delicious things in the past. Some of their appetizers are quite authentic, and worth trying. I particularly liked Goong cha nam pla, a beautifully prepared raw shrimp in lime juice.
Thai Market gets my best ranking, five stars: *****
Jens moved to a new apartment, and I finally made it to his new neighborhood. And I have things to report. But first: I am thinking of changing the tone of my entries to Jens’ blog. When I first started writing about surviving New York’s food on Notes From Nowhere, I was new here, and in despair about the absence of all kinds of European delicacies. I still miss some things, but some strange transition took place, and I can’t be quite as desperate as I once was. Perhaps I’ve just come to know things so well here that I most basically like them. Thus, I need a new vocation: that of food and restaurant critic. For a start, I’m planning to describe to you every little store and restaurant on the West Side, my territory. A couple of blocks away, it is Jens’ territory.
When I came to see Jens’ beautiful new apartment, he had a little pear tarte, which was in a rather non-descript grey carton. It didn’t bode well, and I was thinking that he had better left it to me to bring something. However, the cake was absolutely perfect, so much so that I asked Jens to show me the place where he bought it: the Silver Moon Bakery at Broadway and 105th Street. This place is a real neighborhood favorite. While you wait in line, you watch the bakers make new things, and it’s clear that this is all fresh, done from real ingredients, and so on. Very reassuring! I bought quite a number of things, with my new task of food critic in mind. My absolute favorite is a fiscelle (that’s a thin, sourdough baguette) with various grains. I came back three times for it already, and only once I was lucky enough to snatch the last one away from the next person in line. Another highlight are the palmiers, again a French classic, a kind of pastry that can be hard and all-too-sugary, or fluffy and melting in your mouth as the Silver Moon Bakery’s palmiers. Various breads are excellent, with a real European feel to them.
Following well-known standards, I shall assign stars, and I’ll give five stars to the best places. The Silver Moon Bakery certainly deserves them. *****
I had a phone conversation with Jens yesterday, which is utterly rare. He prefers email, or the occasional conversation over coffee or dinner. We are both in the Italian Alps, but not quite as close as to make a meeting convenient. Last Thursday, Jens slipped on the ever-so-slippery ice (this is a truly cold winter!). One of the bones in his elbow apparently is broken. He says he can’t type or process any images on his notebook, but he is still up in the mountains for more pictures, which somehow seems to work. He says he’ll get a cast before his return to his calmer, more urban life in Manhattan later this week….
In the light of all this, I asked him to post this photo, admittedly not as artistically deep as the rest of his oeuvre, for the sake of wishing him and everyone else the best of luck for 2009. I saw Jens, and a few other friends, for New Year’s Eve. The piglet was part of the decoration on the dinner table, and in my untiring effort to make Jens photograph things I eat or cook, I persuaded him to make a photo. He thinks it’s a little bland. I think that doesn’t matter, because good luck is always needed. And then, of course, I like little pigs.
There are more photos of the cervo I prepared for New Year’s Eve (I don’t know the English word for this, a kind of game, but I’ll find out!). But that will have to wait…