Chasing After $25 and Under (Lunch at Rhong-Tiam)

IMG_1.JPG

I once read that to be a successful blogger, you have to be nimble. So yesterday, while reading The New York Times Dining section $25 & Under column about Rhong-Tiam in the West Village, I was struck by Julia Moskin’s claim that it’s “one of the best Thai places in Manhattan.” And I thought: hey, I’m a blogger, I can be nimble, why don’t I go there RIGHT NOW and check this place out for myself?

And that’s what I did! I hopped on the D train all set to get off on West 4th (the restaurant’s on West 3rd and LaGuardia), when the train was diverted to 14th Street. WHAT HAPPENED TO BEING NIMBLE, MR. TRAIN? But once at 14th, I hopped an R Train down to 8th and walked from NYU over to LaGuardia and 3rd Street and guess what? I couldn’t find it. What was going on? I’m trying to be nimble here, WORLD.

It ends up, the restaurant was hidden behind a giant dome built by Buckminster Fuller:

IMG_3.JPG

Hey Mr. Fuller, I’m trying to be NIMBLE here, can you move your dome?

Now when I read the $25 and Under review, I made notes of which dishes Julia Moskin recommended: kao soi, drunken noodle, larb gai, pork on fire. But once at the table and handed a lunch menu, I realized that the lunch menu was a limited menu: one of those special lunch menus that comes with salad, an appetizer and rice all for a fixed price. I couldn’t find any of Moskin’s recommended dishes, except for one: the drunken noodle.

It took a long time for the food to come out and I spent it reading Alice Munro’s fantastic short story in this week’s New Yorker. (If you’ve never read an Alice Munro story, you can definitely start with this one–it may become a personal favorite.) Finally, the food came:

IMG_3.JPG

As you can see, everything was compartmentalized nicely on the plate. The spring rolls were standard fare; the salad was slightly more exotic, with crunchy components and a bright, elusive dressing. However, let’s talk about these drunken noodles:

IMG_4.JPG

If you ‘ll permit me, I’d like to channel the great M.F.K. Fisher and anticipate how she might put this dish into words.

Ahem.

“HOLY SHIT OH MY GOD THIS IS SO HOT OW OW OW OW OW IT HURTS OH MOMMY PLEASE MAKE IT STOP, OH GOD OH GOD OW OW OW OW OW HOT HOT HOT HOT WHERE’S BEER? WHERE’S WATER? NEED MORE WATER! PLEASE, MORE WATER. MORE ANYTHING. PLEASE, DRAG SAND PAPER ACROSS MY TONGUE AND MAKE IT STOP HURTING. OW OW OW. HOLY SHIT. HOT HOT HOT HOT HOT.”

Yes, this was a spicy dish. And once I got past the spice, I could really appreciate the nuances of flavor–I liked the fresh herbs on top, the lime, the texture of the noodles. And this may be a good time to tell you that a spicy dish like this is good training for the trip I’m going to take next month. A trip? Where am I going? Where in the world am I headed with spicy food? Stay tuned for that, I promise to tell you soon!

As for Rhong-Tiam, I definitely recommend it but I wouldn’t go for lunch. Go for dinner, sit outside, and order one of the authentic dishes Moskin recommends and prepare to have your mouth burn. As for me, this nimble blogger enjoyed chasing after $25 and under. Maybe I’ll be nimble next week and do the same!

You may also like