Bai Cha: Bringing Lots o' Satay to Hell's Kitchen

The satay was better on a stick ...
The satay was better on a stick ...

Bai Cha -- the name means "tea leaf" in Thai -- popped up in Hell's Kitchen about a month ago, with a Southeast Asian menu mainly made up of various kinds of satay, plus a few sandwiches and sides like roti.

The place is small and efficient, with an ordering counter and a handful of tables. The prices are not ultra-cheap Chinatown-style, but they are very fair for a decent lunch in this part of town. (It's open in the evening as well but seems more suited to lunch.) This afternoon, there was a steady trickle of takeout orders. The place also styles itself a market, and there are a few Thai and Indonesian grocery items displayed -- dried fruit, curry pastes, spicy peanuts, and so on -- which most customers ignored.

There are five different satays, and they can be had by the trio with pickled vegetables ($3.95) or as a combo with coconut rice and green papaya salad ($5.95 for three skewers, $7.95 for five).

And best to ignore the sandwiches and stick to the satays. The beef is particularly tasty, sliced thinly and grilled in its coconut milk-coriander seed sauce. The red curry chicken version has an appealing spicy richness, though the honey pork flirts with bland.

As for sides, a flaky, oily, Indian-style roti ($2.95) with a little cup of massaman potato curry is just fine, and could even serve as a very light, cheap lunch.

Unfortunately, the bread on the sandwiches ($5.95) is dry, tough, and dense, and the fillings, like chicken satay, shown above, get lost in its carb-y grip.

Bai Cha 710 Ninth Avenue 212-315-9667

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