Location: 85 Ave A
People: RB, CK and myself
Feelings: Another Isan-style Thai? Ever since Woodside's famous Sripraphai's arrival, NYC has become saturated, or even over-saturated with Isan food. But when it comes to this flavor-packed delicacy, one could never have enough. We are better off with more fermented fish sauce and spices-- and less sugar-y pad thai. Somtum Der from Bangkok also does not disappoint.
Somtum's version is more clean and Manhattan friendly compared to Sripraphai or Zabb Elee. The flavoring is somewhat similar to Ayada, but considering this is East Village, the pricing is higher. Since it was just written up by NYT (one star..), the place was packed on early Saturday afternoon, which means it was filled with customers who are unfamiliar with spiciness of Isan Thai flavors or never put a step in Elmhurst. As suspected, I heard the next table complaining how spicy their noodle dish was. The service was slow, and the server seemed quite busy warning patrons how spicy the "spicy" dishes were.
RB ordered the Khao Klook Ka Pi, which was essentially a deconstructed fried rice dish. Although he wasn't overwhelmed, he found the dish tasty and well executed.
From the central Thai selection, "Chef's signature wok-fried seafood suki" ($12, wok-fried rice vermicelli with seafood, vegetables, and suki sauce) was a hearty dish with full of squid. Due to the large amount of fish sauce and seafood along with greasy noodles, I continued to belch for the next 45 minutes. If you are on a hot date, stick with spicy papaya salad and sticky rice, and you can avoid the sticky situation.
The level of authenticity is fantastic at Somtum Der, but the the flavor tends to be one note. I hope to try other dishes soon along with their various drinks like lemongrass juice, rosella juice and chrysanthemum juice. They also have plenty of Thai desserts like snow ice with syrup, black jelly with milk and Thai tea panna cotta that all sound refreshing despite this brisk weather outside.