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07/08/09 4:00am

Lillie’s, 13 E. 17th St, 212-337-1970

Price range: $23-$35
Rating:3L’s

Lillie’s isn’t the kind of place you expect to find between Chelsea
and Union Square. One look across the sea of suits milling around the
40-foot marble bar and you’d swear this was Murray Hill. Yup, the
banker/fratboy contingent has adopted this impressive new
self-described Victorian Irish lounge, a place featuring over-the-top,
mahogany-heavy decor that seems like the Vegas idea of a 19th-century
Dublin hangout for Anglican gentry, financing a life of luxury on the
backs of those who produce. So perhaps the crowd is appropriate.

Lillie’s has a great beer selection, with lineups from Belgium and
small American brewers but disappointingly few Irish quaffs. But much
of the crowd isn’t ordering the beer, a bargain at $6 draughts. The
drinks of choice seemed to be oak-y Chardonnay and, distressingly, Grey
Goose and sour, beloved by the blue-shirt, white-collar set.

But the bartenders are a good lot, attentive and lacking pretense
— although one particularly green drink slinger accidentally
spilled a Black and Tan all over my companion’s dress. The same good
intentions can’t be ascribed to the hostess, who had earlier told us
that the wait for a table in the restaurant portion in the back was
going to be an hour. By the time she came around to tell us our table
was ready, my friend had gone home to try to clean the Guinness from
her purse, and I had ordered takeout. The hostess found all of this
funny.

When a night goes so poorly — needless waiting, a crowd out of
an 80s movie, a rude hostess and a clumsy bartender (who did cut our
bill in half) — it can be a solace to mock it in writing. The
only problem is the food: It’s good. Pan-seared halibut takeout should
be a slimy, chewy mess, but the kitchen cooked it perfectly to survive
the takeout container, while the accompanying green peas and mushrooms
in a beurre blanc were a clear taste of modern Irish fare, fresh and
simple, letting great ingredients speak for themselves, without
skimping on the butter. Likewise, a grilled ham and cheddar sandwich
slicked the hands but somehow avoided being heavy. Even beet salad rose
above its humble roots with an outrageously good goat cheese and an
uncommonly balanced dressing.

All in all, an infuriating experience, but I can’t say I won’t be
back. And I’m sure that some day soon, the finance-dude crowd will tire
of the Victorian-Irish concept, letting me tuck into a velvet chair at
the bar, free from jostling elbows and Jäger bombs. That and a few
years of wear, not the simulation of age, and Lillie’s might really be
something.

06/24/09 4:00am

Aldea, 31 W 17th St, 212-675-7223

Price range: $21-$35 Rating:4L’s

After two years of rumor and hushed assurances, former Bouley and
Tocqueville cook George Mendes has opened his love letter to the
Iberian Peninsula. The airy bi-level space — a study in blonde
wood, white walls and striped glass — strikes a charmingly
intimate chord, in spite of an artistic hanging centerpiece of 400
clear acrylic rods and a stark, silent open kitchen.

And what comes out of that kitchen is no less high design. Chef
Mendes has crafted a menu, hewing closely to the fads of the moment,
that manages again to walk a fine line, being at once affected and
endearing. These trends — a charcuterie heading, molecular
gastronomy, farm provenance, staccato lists of ingredients —
somehow work in this Iberian mold. Take this listing from the Petiscos
(Small Bites) section: Rick’s Catskill Mt. Ramps, crisped pig ear,
apple, cumin, yogurt ($7). Pretentious, yes, but delightful. The garlic
and grass overtones are, at first, at odds with the rich fatty crunch
of the pork, then meld and avoid becoming overbearing with crisp, tart
apple slices. The cumin yogurt lends what would be a straightforward
New American dish an exotic and uncertain origin. Spring
consommé ($11) also encapsulates one of the season’s rare,
romanticized treats, the morel. Al dente peas and chorizo round out the
flavors, but the real star of the dish, and what makes it feel precious
and inorganic, is a mushroom “ravioli,” a basic molecular gastronomy
technique that transforms a liquid — in this case a
superconcentrated mushroom broth — into a sphere that gushes and
dissolves at first bite.

Aldea’s Portuguese roots are clear in the kitchen’s facility with
seafood. Scallops were ocean-fresh, mid-rare and well seared, as
expected, paired with faro risotto, cucumber and orange, a refined,
adult dish that allowed no room for whimsy, coming off as distressingly
staid. Escolar was the star of the night, the fatty, hard-to-digest
flesh creating exuberant textural and flavor contrasts with chickpeas,
neon veggies and an arbois wine sauce. However, the portion was too
large and, as our waitress was unaware, even largish entrée
quantities of this fish can cause gastric distress.

Aldea, a cool space with a well-heeled crowd, hovers between
authentic and self-conscious, unsure if eating is a visceral or
intellectual exercise. But no such judgment can be reserved for the
waitstaff — intuitive and charming while rocking severe haircuts
— and a wine list featuring under-heralded grapes and small
producers running the gamut of prices. In all, Aldea is an oasis from
dumbed-down flavor profiles and derivative design — just don’t
take the experience too seriously.

06/10/09 4:00am

La Carbonara, 202 W 14th St, 212-255-2060

Price range: $18-$28 Rating: 3L’s

You don’t have to watch the news or read the blogs to know something
is wrong, that people are hurting. You just have to look around. Stores
are shuttered, fewer people are in the shops and more are living on the
streets; “sample sales” are liquidating stock from an overexuberant
age. And few are hurting more than our neighborhood restaurateurs.
Across the city, old standbys and formerly hot upstarts are shutting
down. But perhaps we’re soon to see the bright side of standing on the
economic brink: the return of affordability. With falling rents come
new options for a notoriously low-margin industry: value without mass
production or manic turnover. And at the forefront of what I hope will
be a new wave is La Carbonara.

While the stodgy name implies otherwise, the vibe here isn’t old New
York Italian. No Frank on the juke, no red-and-white tablecloths, and
nobody’s grandmother manning the sauce pot. That last element may prove
La Carbonara’s downfall — as well as subbing out ‘Ol Blue Eyes
for throbbing mid-90s Ministry of Sound beats — but the
contemporary atmosphere of rough-hewn oak, cream wainscoting and
dramatic, dim bare-bulb lighting creates a welcome respite from an
unimpressive stretch of West 14th Street.

And, oh yeah, main courses top out at $14.95. For that price you can
have braised rabbit or a marinated skirt steak with roasted Tuscan
potatoes and spinach. It may not be the best steak in the city —
nor in the top hundred — but it’s a full meal for a fair price.
Same goes for the $9.50 spaghetti and meatballs, which is a bit
oversauced and overcooked, with under-seared meatballs. Le Zie, a short
way up Seventh, does a superior job, but charges over 50 percent more.
An appetizer of tangy salmon tartar ($8.50) was more impressive,
impeccably fresh and plated with an eye towards composition. And a
salad of baby spinach with crispy bacon, grilled portabellas and
gorgonzola ($7.95) was rich and substantial enough for a light
meal.

Perhaps it shouldn’t be such a shock to find a proper meal for this
price in Manhattan; one with gracious service of the sort that entices
regulars (if you ignore the wild-eyed, Euro-trashy manager), fresh
crusty bread, a wide-ranging wine list with nearly all bottles costing
under $30, and a diverse crowd ranging from hot young things seeking a
party to older couples seeking respite. It shouldn’t be a shock, but it
is. Is La Carbonara riding the crest of a new budget-chic trend?

I hope so. But please, 86 the house music.

05/13/09 4:00am

Inakaya, 231 W 40th St, 212-354-2195

Price range: $28-$45 Rating: 3 Ls

Prepare for a shock when you enter Inakaya, a new Tokyo import on
the ground floor of the Times building. The cacophonous roar you
hear? That’s the staff, greeting you. But since you don’t speak
Japanese, it’s indistinguishable from being screamed at. By a crowd.
Who you are paying.

This disconcerting entré to the airy American branch of a
Roppongi institution becomes fun after a drink or two — drinks,
like the food, passed to you on 10-foot wooden paddles — or when
it happens to someone else. As soon as you’ve settled into the
impressive 30-foot wooden bar, the banging starts (which, of course,
involves additional shouting). This noise is at least for a reason. The
staff — and brave guests — are using giant mallets to break
rice into mochi, the freshest I’ve ever tasted, served in simple lumps
for free and in sheets with green tea ice cream for a great
dessert.

Inakaya is somewhere between a Disney-fied take on a dream Fellini
once had about a Japanese frat initiation and an excessive bull-market
Japanese mega-restaurant of 2005 (En, Megu, Matsuri, etc.), populated
by lunatics in toe-socks, manning those paddles, minding the robata
grills. And it’s not bad. Before sampling the grilled fare, we started
with salmon ($14) and chu-toro (medium fatty) tuna ($15) sashimi,
delightfully fresh and expertly cut, and a bargain for the chu-toro;
rich, impossible-to-mess-up braised pork belly ($14); and flavorless ,
rubbery rolled omelet ($10).

A carafe of overpriced sake down, I joined my companions for some
delightful Japanese black lager. The vegetables, which must be ordered
individually, really add up, as each 3 oz. serving costs $7 to $9. So
we only tried the shimeji mushroom, which had a good flavor but were
wrinkly from being grilled too long, a few strands of perfectly singed
asparagus and a dozen small, addictive ginko nuts. A roasted rice ball,
coated with too much of a too-sweet miso, was filling, if not the
textural adventure it should have been. Last up in this many course
meal was a whole salt-grilled rockfish ($27), one of a few whole fish
offerings — not to mention lobster, crabs, and even wagyu beef.
The fish was the highlight of the meal, the salty singed skin a
delightful contrast to the silky, delicately flavored snow-white
flesh.

Inakaya — like my fourth grade report said of Japan itself
— is a land of contrasts. The overly broad menu seems an
anachronism, culled from a much larger restaurant, but an exquisite
meal can be had, for a price, and delicacies we don’t often see on
these shores can be enjoyed. It’s a place to impress and frighten
out-of-town guests, somewhere to have some exquisite fish before a
show, and, if you’re missing your family, somewhere to get screamed at
for no reason.

Photo Adam Au

05/11/09 2:00pm

Num Pang, 21 E 12th St
4 L’s
For all the fans of Cambodian cuisine in New York, your options have
been limited. Very limited — Kampuchea was the only game in town. But
chef-owner Ratha Chau has heard your yearning and complied by opening
another restaurant near Union Square. While Kampuchea is a proper
restaurant — with table service, signature cocktails and large windows
facing the street to create an airy space and envy from passers-by —
the new place, Num Pang, is a sidewalk sandwich counter with stools in
a dark graffiti’d room upstairs.

While Kampuchea serves a variety of excellent small plates and noodle
soups in addition to the sandwiches, those are the major triumphs of
the restaurant. Num Pang focuses on the sandwiches — and the
justifiably adored grilled corn, slathered with heady chili powder,
coconut flakes and siracha mayo. The sandwiches themselves are close
cousins to the Vietnamese bahn mi, utilizing the same style (but of
higher quality, from Parisi Bakery) of soft mini baguette. And the
sandwich menus are virtually identical — except for the price (and the
headcheese terrine at Kampuchea, which I’m guessing they did not think
would appeal to 19-year-old NYU students).

One specialty, the meltingly tender pulled duroc pork with spiced
honey — and the accoutrements shared by all sandwiches: cucumber,
pickled carrot, cilantro and chili mayo — is $7.50 at Num Pang vs.
$12+tax and tip at Kampuchea, and what it may lack in polish and
presentation, it makes up for in a heavy hand by the line cooks.
Hoisin veal meatballs ($6.75, $12) with stewed tomatoes is an
East-meets-West treat for those who still eat veal, and are somehow
the worst thing on the menu. Everything, from seasonal choices like
chicken liver pate and pickled ramps or five-spiced pork belly to
coconut tiger shrimp or skirt steak.

The bread/filling, sweet/hot/spicy/bitter/rich, soft/crunchy, hot/cold
are spot on in every sandwich from both joints, so what more could one
ask for? Beer, for one, at Num Pang, or a dining room that you don’t
feel compelled to flee, but that’s a small sacrifice — no sacrifice if
you do takeout. Now that Kampuchea is the fine-dining part of Chef
Chau’s nuevo-Cambodian empire, it’s time to ditch the communal tables
— somehow a $13 roasted cauliflower sandwich seems kinda exorbitant
when an identical one is $6.75 a mile to the northwest. Yet everything
I’ve tried — from either restaurant — has been homey and decadent, and
decidedly unlike anything I ate while actually in Cambodia. Never even
saw a sandwich.

04/29/09 4:00am

Keste, 271 Bleecker St, 212-243-1500

Price range: $15-$25 Rating:

……………………………………………………………………………

With the Dow dropping and the thermometer rising, wallet-friendly
pizza is back in vogue. And ambitious new pies are popping out of ovens
from Chelsea Club Land to the East Village and Williamsburg. And at
Keste, oven-man Roberto Caporuscio is turning out legit Neapolitan
pies. His weapon of choice, which he uses to create perfect crust, is a
bespoke 1,000-degree wood-burning volcanic stone and tile oven, a
masterpiece, inside and out.

The 12-inch pizzas, quite dissimilar from thin-crust New York-style
pizza, are airy and doughy, with a taffy pull and black-singed edges
from their careful trip in the blazing fire, being turned and rotated
on the superheated stone and suspended over an electric-amber flame. As
for what goes on that crust, Roberto sources all his ingredients from
Campania, from flour to buffalo mozzarella (which actually sounds
counterproductive). The house special Keste pizza ($18), with sweet San
Marzano tomato sauce, gran cru cheese, prosciutto and arugula, was
gloriously overladen, with different concentrations of toppings making
each bite an experience, rich enough to match its doughy fullness.

The oven was likewise used to great effect for a battilocchio del
giorno ($6, toppings change daily), basically a misshapen pizza
appetizer topped with commingling neon-colored spinach and red-pepper
purees. There isn’t much else in the way of appetizers, but Keste’s
fine fresh salads show their skill in picking produce. The overwrought
Rustica ($8), a combo of mixed greens, prosciutto, artichoke and olive,
was kept simple with a lemon and oil dressing, while the Fresca ($10),
with stunning baby arugula, grape tomato and Parmigiano-Reggiano, was
rounded out with stellar balsamic vinegar.

The room itself, aside from the gorgeous oven, leaves much to be
desired. It’s a sliver of space with terrible acoustics. But the artful
black and white photos of the Old Country somehow manage to overcome
base sentimentality, and our Italian waiter was one of the best I have
encountered recently. His recommendation of the tiramisu ($6) was a
good one, as it was an excellently prepared version of the trite Little
Italy standard, and a slosh of limoncello sauce (that I requested, from
a different dessert) lent some vigor. Most annoyingly, Keste is on a
frustratingly tourist-trampled block — but don’t worry, they’re
all going to John’s on Bleecker instead, while we enjoy some great
pizza.

04/15/09 12:00am

Rockmeisha, 11 Barrow St, 212-675-7775
Price range: $18-28  Rating: 4L’s

Rockmeisha is off the radar, has no PR team, and almost no presence online. Even the encyclopedic menu sites don’t have it listed. It’s a refreshing oddity in the Manhattan culinary scene: Rockmeisha’s chef seems obsessed with detail and freshness, but the owner — possibly the same person — seems unconcerned about profit. And so this intimate space, with interior structures creating a cozy Japanese village tableau, is usually empty. But you wouldn’t know it from the food.

This being an izakaya, a bar that serves food, we started with drinks. Their house sake, like house wine in France, is the best value, not the cheapest. The clear viscous rice wine ($22/carafe) paired nicely with mild, dense tofu from Fukuoka ($6), served with dashi, soy and sansho pepper. Perhaps the highlight of the meal was a sizzling stone pot of sliced pork, leek and bean sprouts ($7.50) that created its own subtly rich sauce.

Sake finished, we moved on to beer. While they serve Sapporo on tap, we opted for a Yebisu, a superior example of light Japanese lager (and also brewed by Sapporo). The beer cut through a gummy umami-laden, rather addictive pig’s toe ($6), prepared by boiling and then roasting the foot. If you’ve been to Hakata TonTon, the restaurant that specializes in pig foot, you’ll recognize that this is way better than any of their options. Next up was intensely perfumed, juicy fried chicken, slathered in tartar sauce ($10), one of the best pieces of Asian fried chicken I’ve ever had, though I couldn’t stomach the thick coat of tartar sauce. My dining companion, a tartar sauce fan, said it was the best she’d ever had. Our last, and heaviest, dish was a shrimp pancake ($8.50), made from a classic thin batter to produce a texture reminiscent of crepe but studded with tiny shrimp. My greatest disappointment of the night came next: they don’t serve dessert.

But from what I had read, Rockmeisha is known, if it is known at all, for ramen ($14). So we returned the next night for a cheaper, but no less pleasing meal: like the night before, the 20-chair space was only half full. Before the ramen, we had perhaps the best dish of all, a special of broccoli rabe with sesame mayo ($6). The vegetable was cooked to perfection, as expected. As for the soup, it was made with a milky pork-bone broth, light on seasoning, heavy on slow-cooked flavor, with the best handmade noodles I’ve ever had. The thin, dry roast pork slices, however, disappointed.

Again, I had meant to try something from the excellent-looking but limited sushi menu, but had no room.  Maybe I’ll return tomorrow. I’m sure I’ll get a table.

04/01/09 12:00am

10 Downing, 10 Downing St, 212-255-0300
Price range: $  Rating: 4 Ls

Since coming to this city, I have learned to trust the wisdom of crowds. Where in most of the country, the only lines you’ll see are for the Olive Garden — which happens here too, but that’s another column — we get lines when something special is going on. It was true at Studio 54; it was true at the Soup Nazi; and it’s true at 10 Downing, where, five months out, the place is still throbbing and the dining room din still pervades the street. And that’s high praise for a Continental restaurant near Soho that even lacks a liquor license (though it does have terrific by-the-glass wine program and a sufficient craft brew selection).

The restaurant’s triangular shape, with glass walls jutting onto a non-grid corner, creating some of the city’s worst acoustics, explains the terrible noise. For that I was glad. The conversations around me were like those at an L.A. party, but instead of talking about the pretty young women who light up the screen, everyone was praising the ugly, fat old men who created our current state of affairs. Though I couldn’t ignore the surrounding tables, I couldn’t hear my dining companion, so I focused on the walls, which were covered with a fine array of prints, paintings and photos on loan from select galleries and better than you’d find walking into almosty any individual gallery in Chelsea or Soho. My attention returned to the table to enjoy a charcuterie platter ($25), enough for four, with fine renditions of rillette, duck prosciutto and chicken liver mousse; best were smoky cubes of mortadella and spicy morcilla, a blood sausage best described as chorizo pudding.

Next out was a squid ink agnolotti ($14 appetizer, $27 entrée), an informal ravioli with slippery strands of peekytoe crab and piquillo pepper in lemon butter. Amazing without biting into the pepper, disappointingly sweet and one-note with it. Not so with the marinated Brussels sprouts ($9), which with anchovy vinaigrette, a fried poached egg and parmesan flakes melded into an unctuous vegetal mass. Our one entrée, braised beef cheeks ($25), wasn’t huge, but afterwards I didn’t feel like eating for days. The rich red wine reduction glazing the quivering meat wasn’t the main culprit. No, that would be the even more quivering masses of soft bone marrow, which add an impossible richness and depth of flavor beyond what I expected. But, for what it was, it was great, as was the accompanying mustard spaetzle, with a rugged chewiness to balance the other yielding textures.

Its resonant address aside, 10 Downing isn’t even remotely British. And I’ve no clue why it’s now come to a critical mass. 10 Downing is loud; the kitchen is known to be inconsistent; they feature truly horrific wine cocktails (don’t ask about the Port Flip); the chef is infamous for a tawdry dispute with a former business partners. And Damien Hirst posters can only get you so far. And yet, it works. So get on over while it lasts; blood sausage and duck meatball cassoulet won’t seem so appealing come July. Or maybe that’s when it really gets fun.

03/18/09 12:00am

Marfa 101 E 2nd St, 212-673-8908
Price range: $20-35  Rating: 1L

Marfa, a Texas town that brings so many images to mind (barren scrub on windswept plains; minimalist sculptors dressed in black, laughing in French and German at the simple folk who call the Hill Country home; Brooklyn expats trying to craft Texas into Williamsburg), few of them good, has been reinvented as an LES bar and restaurant.

This less than promising concept is brought to us by the people behind Lucky Cheng’s, a restaurant noted for sassy trannies and horrific Chinese cuisine. And their take on Texas grub — which is decidedly not inspired by micro-green and chai latte-loving Marfa — is expectedly tragic. Lucky Cheng’s popularity is unrelated to its food, but to atmosphere and a floorshow. At Marfa, a dingy, depressing room with corporate-Rothko adobe walls notable for their lack of adornment as they overshadow an inviting bar, the vibe is controlled by the music. And that music was Crystal Water’s droning, eye-stabbing house classic “Gypsy Woman (She’s Homeless).” Three times in two hours. I was told later that the staff didn’t know how to change the music. I pity them. And not just because of the depressing, repetitive music, but because they’re so kind and capable while the kitchen, owners and designers are so inept.

Most of our meal came from a Texas-sized platter of bites ($18), showcasing the best of their Texas Tapas concept. A grapefruit-infused tequila shot was by far the best element, though that came from the bar. The biggest atrocity was the ribs. Real Texas Barbecue, I was told. To me that means beef, but no, these were dry-rubbed baby back pork ribs. And dry is the right word. Coated in a thick layer of musty spices, they must have been reheated a dozen times before they saw our plate. Not smoked or even low-cooked, it’s a disgrace to call such wasted flesh barbecue, but this is exactly the sort of culinary abortion Marfa specializes in. Was it a post-ironic statement on our base, wanton desire for deliciousness, or cynical corporate ineptitude?

Nearly as bad were two types of chilis, one meat, one veggie. The red veggie chili tasted of tomatoes and little else, while the beef chili was leathery with an unpleasant mole undertone. Grilled shrimp were stringy and overcooked, while mini corn-dogs on maxi-sticks were cute yet soggy. Pulled pork was again overcooked on expectedly soggy tostadas. At every step on that abominable $36 platter, textures were wrong, technique was amateur, seasonings were off. Except for chips and guacamole, which were a fine accompaniment to boring Lone Star beer. (And, showing how out of touch Marfa is, that was the most interesting beer on their list, and it’s two steps away from Bud.)

Amazingly, their mac and cheese ($7), flecked with green chili, ranks among the city’s best — which only highlighted how poor the rest of the menu was. I’m sure Ms. Cheng, or whoever owns this place, has a picture in her head of Marfa, a magical town where real Texas and ivory tower minimalism commingle gracefully. But I bet it’s more complicated than that. Thoroughly uncomplicated? Marfa the restaurant. Unrepentantly, insultingly, memorably awful. And that’s no easy feat.

02/04/09 12:00am

Silom 150 Eighth Ave, 212-675-2888
Price range:  $17-$27   Rating:  3Ls

On Eighth Avenue in Chelsea, a cancer has been spreading. Where elsewhere in the city, banks and Duane Reades invade empty storefronts, on this stretch the scourge is Thai restaurants. At my last count, there were — from 14th to 26th streets —  ten. And Silom is the newest and most ambitious of these. Not a faux club like Nooch or Room Service; not a chain like Vynl; not musty and old school like Royal Siam; nor a Chinese takeout place masquerading as Thai for more delivery business. No, Silom feels like a restaurant circa 2009.
The intimate space is reminiscent of heralded AvroKO-designed spaces like European Union and Quality Meats, with an aged wood ceiling descending to become a table, and inventive lighting fixtures crafted from glasswear. The inviting space even includes a rarity at an Asian restaurant — a comfortable full-service bar (if you skip the specialty drinks, that is).

But while the look and feel of Silom are refreshingly out of the ordinary, the menu is stale. Hewing to the kitchen sink philosophy of Thai cuisine for most of the entrees, Silom offers ten protein choices — this determines the price — served in a variety of ways (seven sauteés and five choices each of fried rice, noodles and curries). Not to say that what comes out of the kitchen is bad: duck breast ($12) with tom yum sauce had an authentic balance of hot, sweet, and sour, while green curry with fried tofu ($9) is probably the neighborhood’s best (though the pad thai is probably the worst). But there is nothing inventive — other than the practice of charging for white rice — until the Pride of Silom section. This makes me wonder what they feel about the other dishes if not pride. I hope ambivalence and not contempt. But this pride shows through in a house special crab cake ($15), made with fresh lump crab that’s only heightened by a shot of red curry, though an overcooked boneless duck in a surprising red wine sauce ($17) is a master class on the pitfalls and pleasures of fusion. For appetizers, you can’t go wrong with authentic tom yum soup and duck spring rolls, both restorative and brimming with fresh thai herbs.

While this stretch of Manhattan certainly needs fewer Thai options, Silom shouldn’t be the one to close. It eschews the kitsch factor that seems to define some ethnic restaurants, and it’s an infinitely better experience for it. Another hallmark, of course, is the overlong menu, which it inexplicably retains. Hopefully they (and almost every other Asian restaurant in this country) will realize that we don’t want the detritus of Silom, we want its pride.