Monday, January 10, 2011

Wondee Siam, Thai to die

As you may have noticed, I usually do not post about restaurants and this is for two very simple reasons:

1) we don't go out as much as we did when we were a carefree couple without children, especially not to the kind of place you would be inspired to blog about, and when we do it is such a special occasion that we do not want to waste a precious moment.
2) the times I have been somewhere memorable and brought my camera it was a total failure. I try to avoid flash if possible (also, I hate disturbing other diners with the light) and when I do use it the results are of course terrible and the ones I take without are dark. Last but not least, I still feel uncomfortable constantly whipping out my camera in a nice restaurant. Any suggestions on how to get a better restaurant picture? Many of you do excellent jobs.

Wondee Siam, however, is a place that cannot go unmentioned or unphotographed.
It is nothing fancy and totally a place to go with the kids, although it isn't what you would call a family restaurant. If they hadn't recently redecorated I would still call it a hole in the wall, it is really small (keep in mind, if going with children, there is no room for a highchair or a stroller) and unpretentious. This is a place you go for the food, which is absolutely outstanding, so please promise me you will give it a try if you go to NY (but also promise to go to the original one, not the ones followed by numbers).

This is as authentic as Thai food gets abroad, or so I am told because I have not been lucky enough to travel there myself yet. So if you are thinking of huge Americanized bowls of coconut milk-based curry and Pad Thai, rewind and erase. They do of course make a pretty mean curry and Pad Thai, but I totally recommend you also try something different here because you don't know what you would be missing otherwise. The cooks here use the freshest of ingredients, every dish is fragrant with lime, hot chili peppers and full of freshly chopped herbs. The balance of the flavors and texture is exceptional, the crispy, the crunchy, the salty, the sour, the heat and the sweetness and there is not a hint of greasiness in the food, although there is definitely frying involved (we saw a whole duck being dropped into a wok of hot oil on the way to the bathroom. Yes, you go through the kitchen, I know...but it gives you an opportunity to see that their small kitchen - and bathroom - are immaculately clean).

The people who work there are more than nice and believe me when I say we have never managed to spend more than $20 a person (tip included), despite being big eaters. This includes food for the kiddies, although we usually do not get dessert and they don't have a liquor licence (you can bring our own booze, we always do).

We are lucky enough to have a special "insider" menu suggested by a Thai friend of a friend, so I am not sure if everything you will see is on the menu. They however do not bat an eye at our requests so I am sure you can order these dishes without a problem.

We normally start with the mien ka nah, shredded pork wrapped in leaves, that is a concentrate of flavor, doused in lime juice. The raw onions and peanuts add a nice crunch and there is definitely a good amount of chili in there too for some heat. Take a spoonful and wrap it up and take a bite of paradise.

Our next staple is the green papaya salad

and the crispy pork with watercress (hollow vegetable). 

The crispy duck and pineapple salad is a winner, the ever present perfect balance between textures and flavors. The pineapple is fresh, juicy and sweet and the duck pieces are as crunchy and savory as you are immagining them. 

If you are feeling adventurous, don't miss out on the raw shrimp with minced garlic and chili.

This is as hot as it gets and for those of you commenting on Michael's puttanesca, this is the real meaning of 'a lot of garlic' (raw and minced, not cooked and in cloves...the real deal). Pad Thai is a must for the childrens' more delicate taste buds, this time with seafood, and the duck-filled spring rolls and sticky and white rice were also tasty and fresh, but the above are seriously the stars, the ones you can't go without.

Wondee Siam
792 Ninth Ave, New York, NY (between 52nd & 53d St.)

On a sidenote, I am still struggling with jet lag, which is crazy considering I have been back 5 days and never usually suffer much from it. This has been keeping me up pretty much until 3 or 4 am every morning and has been making me a little hazy in the head during the daytime. So here are a couple of things I forgot to mention in my previous post: check out the beautiful pink marble glazed cookie that I posted last time. A close friend and baker who started a business made these as a present for my daughter for her birthday. We also had a killer chocolate mousse cake for Christmas Eve baked by her. Delicious. So if anyone in NY is interested in seeing what she has on offer, contact me an I will be glad to pass on her details.

Second, I forgot to post some pretty important food pictures when it comes to NY: the Jewish deli lunch, dainty little nibbles. Check these out!

Chicken salad sandwich with bacon on rye

Half (!) a tuna salad sandwich


Turkey, mustard, mayo and tomato on rye...are you serious??

The makings for a pastrami sandwich

Good 'ole cole slaw


  1. OK, now you're just showing off! LOL! I am 100% sending this link to my brother who lives in NYC as he MUST go to this Thai place! It looks SO UNBELIEVABLE!!!

    And those sandwiches...don't even get me started. That tuna one with a side of FAVORITE!

  2. It is nice to find you blog! I am a New Yorker (a lifelong resident of Brooklyn) and I am married to an Italian who often yearns for his country :)

    I enjoyed looking through your posts ..I see you wee here for the snowstorm!

    I have never been to Wondee Siam ..I'm adding it to my list!

  3. Restaurants is the only reason I miss New York. I can do without the weather but... ohhhhh, the food!

  4. DD&W - aaaah, that explains the attachment to NY. Perhaps you can go together sometime? Let me know if he likes it.
    Pat - Hi and welcome. I am glad you are enjoying the blog. I will be going to look at yours shortly. Yes, was there for the snow and heard Brooklyn was in an even worse state than Manhattan. Being there on vacation however made a really pleasant interlude. You must go to Wondee!
    I Sicilian - amen, I am all with you regarding the restaurants. Happy New Year by the way.

  5. I don't know, your pictures look pretty darn good to me! That thai food looks amazing - You've made me want to hop in the car and head to NY right this minute!

  6. i am so going to this place:) thanks for sharing this post..

  7. Thank you for your lovely comment on my blog.

    The best tip for good restaurant photos is to go at lunch time and sit by a window, preferably with your back to the window. I always ask permission to take photos when the waiter takes our order. Once they say it's okay I have no problems taking photos as each dish comes out. I set my speed (1/60 of sec) and then adjust aperture and always use auto focus

  8. Julie - that is because it was lunchtime! We went another time in the evening and I deleted those pictures. And you should see the pics I took for the other post I was going to write...uh, probably not happening...too bad because the food was great.
    BBKD - have some of crispy bacon and watercress for me too please...
    Barbara - thank you for your suggestions, will take note. Unfortunately, we usually go to the 'better' places in the evening, sans kids, and that is when the flash issue becomes a problem.


Leave a suggestion, opinion or your own experience. I love hearing from you.