Finally, a pad thai that kicks your ass.
Pad thai is one of those dishes to be instinctively avoided. Even at great Thai restaurants, the cooks switch into gringo mode and turn out an indifferent heap of pale rice noodles that’s invariably bland and way too sweet. But then last Friday evening a group of revelers, after bar-hopping in Williamsburg, stumbled on the Rhong-Tiam cart at the corner of Bedford and Metropolitan, which rose up from the thick fog like an apparition.
The cart is parked every evening until 4 a.m. at the same corner.
You will remember Rhong-Tiam was a well-regarded Thai restaurant on LaGuardia Place in Greenwich Village that opened in 2008. It spawned another establishment on Second Avenue in the East Village that lasted somewhat longer, but both locations were doomed.
Now, channeling the zeitgeist, it has reappeared in cart form even further east from the original location. Brilliantly, the cart specializes in only one dish: pad thai, with your choice of tofu or chicken ($10); grass-fed steak or wild-caught shrimp ($15); Berkshire pork, roasted Peking duck, or squid ($16); Alaskan blue crab [sic] ($25); and Maine lobster ($30). Of course, with the latter couple of choices, we’re off into sucker territory, since the recipe could not possibly contain enough of the central ingredient to justify the price. Anyway, the real central ingredient in pad thai is always the noodles.
At the lower price reaches, the product is a fantastic feed, turned out piping hot and finished with a sprinkle of crushed peanuts, blizzard of bright red hot pepper, and insertion of a lime wedge, which must be squeezed for the fullest enjoyment of the meal. Watching the dish being prepared is half the fun. The serving is voluminous, so you might consider sharing with a friend. Really, this heap of steaming noodles is not to be missed, especially on a cold evening.
The dish has finally been returned to its Siamese street-cart roots, and to great effect.
Corner of Bedford and Metropolitan avenues, Brooklyn
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 22, 2012