Thai Me Up and Feed Me Pongsri

I loved Pongsri tonight, our new Chelsea Thai place. I learned of it at Gothamist Food. I love learning of new food places reading the food blogs. I felt so in the know when the crew I was with (I hang with a crew because I’m phat) said, “Where’s a good place to eat around here?” (we were at an Emory alumni event between 7th and 8th) and I said, “Oooh, there’s a new Thai place across the street. Supposed to be great.”

So we made our way over in the rain:

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Pongsri opened on Sunday. The owner jubilantly greeted our table. In fact, all the waiters and busboys were jubilant. There was a great vibe going on at Pongsri. Thai food karma’s gonna get you…

I was there with Lisa, Alli and her boyfriend (who I just met) Burny (spelled this way according to Ricky, but he could be lying–I wonder if he’s lying?). Here’s Lisa and Burny:

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Here’s me and Alli:

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You can’t see them very well, but I got a new pair of glasses this week. They’re titanium. They can withstand temperatures of 10s of thousands of degrees. That will come in handy when I fly to the sun.

Anyway, the food. The food the food the food.

Alli and I had some issues. “I’m getting Pad Thai,” she said. “I’m getting Big Bird’s nest,” I said. “Ok,” she said. All seemed well.

The waiter approached. “What’s the very best thing here? The very best thing?” I asked.

He said, “The Pad Thai. People come here for our Pad Thai.”

“Ok,” I responded, “I’ll have the Pad Thai.”

“WHAT!” screamed Alli. “I WAS GETTING THE PAD THAI! YOU CAN’T GET THE PAD THAI TOO! WE HAVE TO GET DIFFERENT DISHES!”

“How’s the Big Bird’s nest?” I asked the waiter.

“Ohh very good,” he said.

“Better than the Pad Thai?” I pressed.

“Yes,” he said, “much better.”

So I appeased Alli with big bird’s nest and quicker than you can say black thai optional, the food arrived.

Here’s Alli’s Pad Thai:

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Here’s my Big Bird’s Nest:

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It had chicken, chili-garlic paste, carrots, celery, peppers, pineapple and peanuts. It was delicious. And it was served in a faux bird’s nest. And there was sooo much of it.

Everyone loved their dish. “I love my dish!” said everyone. The waiter and owner were happy. “You live here in this neighborhood?” the owner asked. “Yes we do,” some of us said. “Well I hope you come back!”

We assured him that we would and we weren’t even lying. It’s our new neighborhood Thai place.

Worlds Collide: Kosher Vegetarian Indian Food at Chennai Garden

Since I’ve moved to New York, I’ve lived a bifurcated life. There’s my downtown NYU life and my “uptown” Chelsea life. My downtown NYU life involves a bevy of new friends, classes, teachers, projects, plays, meals and exotic dancers. My “uptown” Chelsea life involves Lolita (my cat) and my “old school” school friends—namely, Lisa. I’ve been neglecting Lisa lately. Don’t you miss her? I know I do.

So last night, worlds collided. I invited Kirk (my new school friend) to dine with Lisa and myself. Would these two get along? The risk was great. After all, Lisa is peppy and energetic and Kirk wears greens and blues and tends to put his finger on his chin and not smile:

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Yet, there was magic in the air. We all clicked terrifically. And what better way to honor such an unexpected union than to eat Kosher Vegetarian Indian food at Chennai Garden?

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Seems strange, the fusion of kosher and vegetarian. But Lisa has a theory:

“Honestly,” says Lisa, “it’s not that hard to make vegetarian food kosher. Because you already don’t have to deal with meat.”

She has a point. And with a few small changes (mostly dairy-related, I imagine) vegetarian Indian restaurants can broaden their clientele. Hence the kosher.

So, anyway, why Chennai Garden? Why now?

I read about it in New York Magazine and the Village Voice. Best Indian deal—all you can eat buffet at lunch. But we were going for dinner. Still, it was close to where I live. And that’s why.

What did we eat?

Ha, funny you should ask. To be honest, I didn’t keep my menu. I will now go to menupages.com to see if I can find it so I can identify our food. (I’m not very good at identifying Indian Food…)

[During this pause, Adam goes to menupages.com and discovers that Chennai Garden’s menu IS available. He consults it lovingly.]

So what did we eat?

I had Alu Palak: Savory Creamed Spinach with Potatoes.

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Lisa had Alu Baingan: Potato & Eggplant with Tomato, Onion & Spices.

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Kirk had Paneer Masala: Fresh Homemade Cheese in a Special Cream Sauce.

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When I say “I had,” “Lisa had,” “Kirk had,” I don’t mean to imply that we each ate our own things. I mean to imply that we shared but this is what each of us ordered when we ordered. We were also brought rice that had peas in it:

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And we shared a bread that wasn’t nan, but may have been either Chappati, Pulka, or Poori. I’m afraid I don’t recall.

Then Kirk made a daring move and ordered a mango Lassi for himself.

“Lassi,” I said, “what’s that?”

“Well,” said Kirk, “It’s a yogurt based drink. It’s sweet.”

“Oooh,” said Lisa, “I’ll have one too.”

Not to be a poor sport I said, “Oooh, me too.”

And soon we were greeted with creamy mangoey goodness:

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I enjoyed my lassi, particularly for the undercurrent of coconut I detected.

Soon, the check came. Soon we paid. We were immersed in a conversation about eyeballs and Lasek surgery and near-sightedness vs. far-sightedness when the manager came over and asked us to leave.

“Did we do something wrong?” we pleaded.

“No,” he said kindly, “people are waiting for your table.”

We looked and there was a wait. So we left.

Where the evening went from there, I dare not reveal. I’ll merely suggest you rent a little movie starring Lara Flynn Boyle, Stephen Baldwin and Josh Charles if you catch my drift. You don’t? Ok, so we went to a bar and drank beer and watched the baseball game. (I say “the baseball game” as if that were something I would do normally. I realize most people might do this normally. Especially since it’s the World Series. But when you create my character profile in your brain, I don’t want you to think of me as someone who watches baseball games. I want you to think of me as someone who ends his posts abruptly and poetically.) Worlds collided, my friends. Worlds collided.

If You’re In The Neighborhood: Dinner at Cola’s (148 8th Ave)

&otIf my posts seem hasty tonight, that’s because I really have to pee but I’m scared to get up and (a) lose my chair (it’s crowded in here), or (b) lose my stuff if I leave it in the chair to reserve it only to have someone steal it. Welcome to New York.

[Ok, ok, the Welcome to New York gag is getting old. Welcome to New York.]

Last night, my friend JC was in town en route to Yale where he’ll be studying religion and art in the fall. Lisa and I met up with him and we caroused a bit, breaking beer bottles and tormenting children until we stumbled across a place on (wouldyabelieveit?) 8th Ave. called Cola’s.

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Almost immediately, we were presented with bread and a white bean/olive oil/garlic concoction. It was delicious:

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So delicious, in fact, that we all began feeling incredibly photogenic. “Photograph me!” cheered JC. I did.

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“Photograph me!” Lisa and I cheered. JC did.

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The service at Cola’s was remarkable. Every time a water glass began to empty it was immediately refilled. The bread and bean stuff was constantly replenished: man COULD have dined on bread alone.

The host/waiter man was incredibly accomodating and endured (or perhaps even enjoyed) the following dialogue with Lisa, who pondered the artichoke ravioli on the specials menu:

Lisa: Now this artichoke ravioli…

Waiter: Yes…

Lisa: Is it just like a piece of artichoke in ravioli?

Waiter: Yes.

Lisa: So there’s nothing else in there, like cheese or anything?

Waiter: Right, just the artichoke.

Lisa: Ok. Now sometimes when I order ravioli you get a big bowl of ravioli, is this a big bowl of ravioli? Or is just a few pieces of ravioli on a big plate?

Waiter: It’s a big bowl of ravioli, I’d say.

Lisa: What kind of sauce does it come with?

Waiter: It’s a pink sauce.

Lisa: Ok. And how much is it? It doesn’t say on here.

Waiter: It’s $14.95.

Lisa: Oh wow, that’s way out of my range. I’ll have the penne with tomato sauce.

I ordered pasta bolognese and all the food came out quite promptly. Here’s mine:

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You can see JC’s in the background (who ordered the same thing as Lisa) and we all scarfed down quite gladly. Was it the best we’ve ever had? No; but it was perfect for the moment. And that’s the thing: there are places you should go out of your way to eat in (Babbo, for example) and other places that are great if you happen to be in the neighborhood and you’re hungry. This one’s the latter. So if you’re at a gay porn shop or watching a Tango show and you’re hungry, why not get some pasta? Cola’s is the place.

At Last, My Bagel’s Come Home: Murray’s Bagels (242 8th Ave.)

In the game of “my city’s better than your city,” there’s one area where Atlanta will always, unquestionably, indubitably lose and that area is bagels. Atlanta has the worst bagels in the world and yes, I ate in Bagel Palace. Bagel Palace is to bagels what Cindarella’s castle in Disney is to Buckingham Palace in England. That is to say, a fascimile, a carbon copy, a wisp of a ghost of a shadow of a bagel. New York, my friends, is the real deal. You haven’t bageled if you haven’t New Yorked.

And yes, I’ve read your Montreal comments: all well and good. Someday, I’ll check those out. But like a sand-crusted desert crawler, forging his way towards a shimmering mirage of water, I found myself on the first day of my arrival scavenging for bagels. Luckily, I had my New York Magazine Cheap Eats issue handy in which the chef at Per Se (not Thomas Kellar) spends $150 (the price of his price fixe menu) out and about in New York. He gets his bagel from Murray’s and so would I.

Murray’s is not at all far from where I live. The other bastion of good New York bagels, based on my limited knowledge, Ess-A-Bagel is-a-far from my whereabouts and so to a’Murray’s I would a’go.

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Murray’s is situated near a Cuban sandwich shop, a gay porn store, and across the street from a theater featuring a tango show. Which is to say that Murray’s is situated in a nexus of culture, part of what makes New York great. I waited patiently in line and ordered what the Per Se guy ordered: an onion bagel with scallion cream cheese and Novia Scotia salmon.

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I sat and read an article about Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy in The New Yorker and pretended to ignore a woman screaming loudly into her cell phone. As for the bagel, it was love at first bite. This was the bagel I’d been waiting for: my seven years of Dunkin’ Donuts/Einstein Bagels Purgatory finally over. Poppy’s hide your seeds: the bagel bandit has arrived.