Hell's Kitchen, Restaurants

Lunching at Pure Thai Shophouse – NYC

March 19, 2011 | 11 Comments
krabi seafood noodle soup @ pure thai shophouse pad thai @ pure thai shophouse
pad see ew @ pure thai shophouse pumpkin custard @ pure thai shophouse

There’s an inordinate number of Thai restaurants in Hell’s Kitchen. Even more than Duane Reade pharmacies. Not sure why. There isn’t a large Thai community in the area. I assume the restaurants are there to cater to the non-Asian office workers in Midtown who want something similar to Chinese take-out, but nothing too exotic. Something safe. I say this because most of the Thai restaurants are bad. On one fateful lunch, I went to a very popular Thai restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen, and everything tasted like it had been tossed in sugar before it came out. Horrible. Last year, Pure Thai Shophouse opened on 9th Avenue amid all the bad Thai restaurants, and I admit, I had my doubts. However, those doubts were quickly cast aside after my first visit, and now I’ve become a lunchtime regular.

pad thai @ pure thai shophouse

For those who want to play it safe, Pad Thai with Shrimp ($7) is your best bet. Besides the small dried shrimp throughout, which some may find too fishy (not me), it’s pretty straightforward. It’s not cloyingly sweet, but it’s made with a good amount of tamarind sauce for those who like their pad Thai on the sweet side. I prefer my pad Thai a little less sweet, so on my last visit, I countered the sweetness with pickled chili pepper slices and super hot red pepper flakes from the condiment rack on the table. Love the condiment racks at the restaurant, by the way. There’s one at every table, but if you sit at the counter, there’s only one or two, so make sure you sit next to one. Along with the pickled peppers and red pepper, it also holds a container of chili garlic sauce and an adorable bottle of fish sauce. Almost too cute to use, almost.

pad see ew @ pure thai shophouse

Pad See Ew with Beef ($7) — vermicelli stir-fried with Chinese broccoli, cauliflower, and yellow bean soy sauce — is another Thai restaurant stand-by, but on the day I tried it, it was way too salty and couldn’t be saved by condiments. In order to finish the noodles, I had to down several glasses of water. It’s a miracle I didn’t drown.

krabi seafood noodle soup @ pure thai shophouse

My favorite noodle dish so far is the Krabi Seafood Noodle Soup ($7), a spicy, sour, sweet noodle soup comprised of flat rice noodles, water spinach, shrimp, squid, and fried fermented tofu in a tomato pork broth. Crunchy, deep-fried wonton skins adorn the crimson noodle soup. The menu warns it’s “not recommended for novices” and “no returns,” but for the most part, it’s harmless. Yes, the soup is pretty sour, but not unmanageably so, and the so-called fermented tofu barely registers on my internal stink-o-meter. There is, however, a strong fish flavor in the soup, which I could see some people not caring for, but personally, I feel it works with the intense brightness of the soup. The soup is punchy but not overwhelming.

pork crackling @ pure thai shophouse

Pork Cracklings ($2) are recommended to be eaten with the noodles in the Pure Thai Noodle section of the menu (of which the Krabi Seafood Noodle Soup belongs), but I’d say the cracklings taste good with just about anything or nothing else. Dry to the touch, the fried porky bites are airy, crisp, and incredibly snackable. I eat them straight from the dish. No combining necessary.

pumpkin custard @ pure thai shophouse

There isn’t a dessert menu at Pure Thai Shophouse, but written on the specials blackboard in the back, there’s usually a Coconut Sticky Rice with Custard ($6.50). On one occasion, the custard happened to be yam, on another it was pumpkin (pictured above). Whatever it is, order it. It will be delicious. Sweet sticky rice, fragrant with coconut milk, is steamed in a banana leaf with smooth, creamy custard. Each luscious spoonful will have you craving another.

Pure Thai Shophouse still doesn’t compare to SriPraPhai, my absolute favorite Thai restaurant in New York, but during lunchtime in Hell’s Kitchen, it feels close enough.

Pure Thai Shophouse
766 9th Avenue (b/n 51st St & 52nd St; map)
New York, NY 10019
212-581-0999

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11 Comments

  • kim at 7:31 am on March 19, 2011

    It’s a really ‘cute’ Thai restaurant. Only thing I didn’t like was the backless chair. I like to lean on something and be comfortable when I eat. :)

  • Nicholas at 5:53 pm on March 19, 2011

    you and I seem to have very differing opinions of taste

    “everything tasted like it had been tossed in sugar before it came out. Horrible.”

    ^^THIS IS AWESOME

  • bionicgrrrl at 6:29 pm on March 19, 2011

    @kim – It seems backless is in these days! Every new restaurant has backless chairs. Yup, I like backs too, but for a lunch spot, I’m OK.

    @Nicholas – I like my donuts tossed in sugar. My noodles, NOT!

  • Pat at 3:43 pm on March 21, 2011

    I was actually looking for a good thai place in NYC last night, but was overwhelmed with all the choices in Hell’s Kitchen. We somehow ended up in Williamsburg on N. 6th st at SEA in which your sugar comment would also be very fitting there. I’ve got to try Pure Thai as I’ve also heard some good things about it on another foodie forum. We’ve tried Pam’s Real Thai but wasn’t all that impressed.

  • James at 9:32 pm on March 21, 2011

    We’ve had a conversation on Pam Real Thai, right? It’s hit or miss, but the hits are outstanding. Anchovy Rice ftw!

  • Nicholas at 3:13 pm on March 22, 2011

    EVERYTHING IN SUGAR. Noodles too.

  • bionicgrrrl at 4:33 pm on March 22, 2011

    @Pat – I agree, HK is overwhelming. Next time, give Pure a shot. It’s much better than those two restaurants. And if you haven’t been to SriPraPhai, I highly recommend going there.

    @James – So far no hits yet. I’ll try the anchovy rice some day.

    @Nicholas – AHHHHH!!!!!!!!!

  • Danny at 3:15 pm on March 23, 2011

    ahhh that coconut sweet rice with custard is quite lovely, and surprising too. sweet rice… mmm. btwn this place and xe lua, i think the thing to do is always order noodle soups where the soup is red. haha

  • someguy at 4:12 pm on March 23, 2011

    Just looking at the red soup makes me pucker my face!

  • bionicgrrrl at 12:49 am on March 25, 2011

    @Danny – There might be a correlation here…

    @someguy – Just remember, no returns!

  • someguy at 9:52 am on March 25, 2011

    No returns, no worries! I will send it to you.

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