Please note that the meal was complimentary. However, the opinions expressed in my blog are 100% my own!
There are so many Thai restaurants in New York, that I was a bit skeptical when I received an invitation from Kao Srisuphasiri, one of the owners of Larb Ubol, a Thai restaurant located in the bottom part of Hell's Kitchen. Even there, that restaurant is surrounded by other ones serving Thai food. I soon understood why Larb Ubol is original.
Well, like many Thai places, you do not go there for the decor and they admit that they prefer putting the money on the food as this is the reason why customers come back. Entering in the restaurant, you immediately notice the big empty space at the entrance: at this point, they are not really sure what to put there, whether a plant, fountain or tables. For the moment, it is nice because it does not feel too crowded.
The decor is very simplistic:
banquettes and chair backs are covered with Thailand’s traditional checkered pha khao ma cloth used to fashion everything from sarongs to hammocks
. On the ceiling and walls, some small umbrellas coming from Thailand:
So, it was clear that we were there for the food, and we made sure we tried several dishes prepared by Chef Ratchanee Sumpatboon, who worked for 20 years in New York City, in well known restaurants, such as Zabb Elee. Her menu is Isan cuisine, from the North East of Thailand, characterized by its heat, chili peppers being prominent, as well as sticky rice, used as we would bread.
Looking at the menu, I immediately noticed the absence of the massaman or penang curry I am used to seeing in Thai restaurants, the only well known dishes being Pad See ew or Pad Thai. I guess that is where Larb Ubol is different. So, it was time to check it out!
To start our feast, we ordered a Thai beer (Singha):
As well as Thai iced tea that was perfect to cool me from the heat of the dishes.
To start, we ordered a couple of appetizers. First was the Larb, a spicy ground meat salad that gave its name to the restaurant (Ubol comes from the city of Ubon Ratchathani where the Chef grew up).
We had the following choices for the ground meat: chicken, pork, beef, veggie duck...We went for beef (
). It was good, but spicy and I loved mixing the spicy meat with the refreshing cucumber or mint leaves. I liked it so much that I kept going at it.
Then, I tried the grilled chicken liver skewer (
), served with a tamarind dipping sauce:
If like me, you like chicken liver, this dish is for you. I admit that it was a bit dry, but the tamarind sauce did its magic, making it a very enjoyable appetizer.
The next dish was Peek Kai Tod or marinated chicken wings, served with a sweet chili sauce:
I thought it would be spicy, but it was not the case at all: the sauce was on the sweet side and was perfect with the moist chicken wings. Good dish for bird lovers.
Then, we had the Pukk Boong Fai Dang or sautéed morning glory with fresh chili:
I do not think I ever had morning glory before. It looks like this:
I enjoyed the dish, but should have ordered it with crispy pork as I am not too much of a vegetarian. The morning glory tasted a bit like spinach, maybe a bit less bitter.
Then was the Chicken Pad Ped:
It is one of their Chef's special, composed of chicken, Thai eggplant, bell pepper, basil, wild ginger and drenched in a spicy curry paste. I should add the large quantity of peppercorn...
After one bite, my mouth was literally on fire and I was glad I had the sticky rice and Thai iced tea to cool down!
I also ate some Pad See Ew that helped against the heat:
We went for the tofu version that was very good.
Last was dessert: we ordered the fried ice cream.
I always find fried ice cream to be an interesting dessert: who got this idea to fry ice cream?
This was a very addictive dessert, the vanilla ice cream pairing well with its shell that was slightly crispy and deliciously sweet.
This was a very good dinner and I am glad I had the opportunity to try a different cuisine. Larb Ubol is definitely unique and stands out from the traditional Thai restaurants. Would I go back: certainly. But this time, I'll ask for non spicy dishes...
Enjoy (I did)!
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And Remember: I Just Want To Eat!