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Thai Restaurants in New Jersey


Rosie
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My tastes have certainly changed. I was at Thai Elephant in Short Hills last year and really thought the food was good. But that was before I ever went to Wondees or Mei Thai! We unexpected ended up there tonight after eating someplace else. Don't ask! :confused:   So--we only had entrees which were Pad kee mow (stir fried rice noodles with garlic, egg, bell peppers, basil and chicken in a chili sauce ordered medium spicy but was bland) and veggie and tofu in a hot pot that tasted only of ginger. So--I thought it would be fun to get a master list together of all of the Thai restaurants that we have been to. Let us know if you recommend these restaurants or if they are Americanized versions of Thai food. Keep posting and I'll get a master list together.

Rosalie Saferstein, aka "Rosie"

TABLE HOPPING WITH ROSIE

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Rosie -

you've raised an interesting question on tastes and evolution. Does the Thai cuisine have regional variations, with differenr ingredients or emphases? Could it be that one "Thai" restaraunt  was of a region different from the others you've tried?

Thailand's a big place. Could be similar to US cuisine (Texas), US cuisine (Oregon) and US cuisine (Maine) Very different, but all authentically US

Apparently it's easier still to dictate the conversation and in effect, kill the conversation.

rancho gordo

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in thailand, cuisine is regional.  just as in most places is suspect.  more fish near the ocean, whatever.  but i think just about every thai place i've been to in the US and abroad has had a generic mix.

anyway, a new thai place opened in clifton near that big supermarket complex (with the family name...ah!  corrado's).  it's called, i think, thai lemongrass or something like that.  i'll get checking it out soon.

as far as NJ thai, i've only been to a few, missing some very notable places.  the ones i've been to are:

thai chef.  montclair.  used to be great.  now it's a madhouse.  thai with a french flair.  byob.

sri thai.  hoboken.  i practically lived here for 4 or 6 years. standard menu. byob.

bangkok city.  hoboken.  good stuff, but pricer than sri thai.  standard menu.

bangkok garden.  hackensack.  standard stuff really.

wondee's.  hackensack.  byob.  standard menu.  by far the best experience of the lot.

kailish.  ridgewood.  byob.  it's actually an indian and a thai restaurant in one.  they do a wonderful crispy duck.  standard thai menu.  

i'm guessing i'll think of more later.

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Thai Restaurants I have been to:

Bergen County

Hackensack:

Wondees - Very casual atmosphere, the best, most personal food.

Bangkok Garden - pretty restaurant. Was our favorite for a long time before we discovered Wondees. Good food, decent service.

Morris County

Sirin, Morristown - Family run, attractive restaurant with several small rooms. Pretty good food, so-so service.

New Main Taste, Chatham - Elegant restaurant and service. Excellent food, relatively expensive. They only have one "curry of the day" not a list of curries on the menu. Nice date place.

Pearl of Siam, Randolph - Casual atmsophere. Just OK, i.e. rice is not Jasmine rice. But very friendly, I once asked where I could get some thai basil (meaning where is a store where I could get some) and they brought me a paper bag full of it!)

Union County

Morris Thai, Union - Very large, casual restaurant. Inexpensive. Good food. Mix & match curry list (list of curry types that you can have with beef, pork, chicken, shrimp or vegetarian).

Essex County

Enhance Thai Cuisine, Millburn - Beautiful restaurant. Good food, expensive.

Not NJ

Thai House, Nyack, NY - cute restaurant, good service, just OK food.

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Although the service can be quite slow for dinner, and there are some non-Thai and fusion dishes on the menu, as well, Deja Vu, in Montclair, has some very good Thai food. It's a particularly good value for lunch, for a nice red or green curry, for example.

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Although the service can be quite slow for dinner, and there are some non-Thai and fusion dishes on the menu, as well, Deja Vu, in Montclair, has some very good Thai food. It's a particularly good value for lunch, for a nice red or green curry, for example.

slow isn't strong enough a word!  i forgot all about that place.  thought it was quite good the 2 times i went there, but i couldn't forgive the cramped quarters and sluggish service.

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Siam Garden - Red Bank.  Beautiful dining room but over priced and under spiced.  I'm there to eat, not visit an art gallery.

Noodles and More - Rt. 34 Matawan.  The opposite, really good prices bu no atmosphere.  Flourescent lights and formica tabletops.  Mainly a take-out place.

Far East Taste - Eatontown.  One of those combo Thai/Indonesian/Malaysian places that try to do too much.

Mie Thai - Woodbridge.  Best of the bunch.  Very nice atmosphere, good prices and tasty food.  The only downside is that you have to make a concerted effort to get them to make the food spicy enough.  Apparently they've had problems with food being sent back because patrons could not handle the heat (I've witnessed it happen).  Now they err on the side of caution and you have to emphasize if you want it hot.  When they ask if I'm sure if I want it hot I reply "No, I want it hotter!"

=Mark

Give a man a fish, he eats for a Day.

Teach a man to fish, he eats for Life.

Teach a man to sell fish, he eats Steak

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Siam Thai Cuisine - Fort Lee.  Mid-range in both price and quality.  Very nice atmosphere (it's got big glass windows), but the parking is a bit difficult.  You can achieve very spicy food with the condiments they give you, but for me it's never quite as good as a place where it's cooked to the spicyness I want.

Wondees I don't have to go on about.  Rachel and tommy have done it for me.

Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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jh, the mamster-alert must have worked, because I hardly ever look at New Jersey (nothing personal!) and suddenly, randomly, here I am.

Before I answer, may I observe that it would be really cool if there were a mamster-signal like the bat-signal?  Thank you.  Also, the other night I was telling a friend about the time my dad and I shared a whole deep-fried skate at a Malaysian restaurant, and I heard myself saying, "It was like being served Batman."  Now I need to work this into a review somehow.

Okay, now to the question.  Yes, there is regional Thai food.  I can and will offer some generalizations, but I'll also add that I've never been to a Thai restaurant in the U.S. that was anything but central Thai.  Even those run by northeastern Thais (from the region called Isaan) tend to concentrate on central dishes because that's what Americans are familiar with:  coconut-based curries, phad thai, and so on.  The vaunted Lotus of Siam is, incidentally, a northern Thai restaurant.

Basically the four regions of Thai cooking break down into northeastern, northern, central, and southern.  I've never been to southern Thailand and don't know much about the food, although I'd definitely like to at some point, since I hear they eat a lot of spicy fish.

Isaan food is very popular in Bangkok, kind of the way some version of Tex-Mex is popular throughout the US, so you do tend to find some northeastern dishes on Thai-American menus.  The most common of these are:

  • Larb.  Chopped meat salad, usually chicken or beef here but an enormous variety in its native Isaan including things like raw or cooked fish, duck with duck blood, and raw water buffalo.
  • Sticky rice (khao niaw).  Served in those cool bamboo baskets.  This is the staple rice of northeast and northern Thailand, eaten instead of jasmine rice.  Eating with your right hand is totally acceptable.
  • Som tam.  Green papaya salad, usually with peanuts, chiles, dried shrimp, and often (always, in Thailand) with a side of raw vegetables such as cabbage and yard-long beans.
  • Gai yang.  Grilled chicken.  Unless you've found a version of this you like, I'd recommend avoiding it at Thai-American restaurants;  it's a completely different and inferior dish here.  In Thailand the chicken is marinated in a lemongrass-rich brine and usually butterflied before grilling.

I can think of one quintessential northern Thai dish that sometimes shows up on menus here:  khao soi, usually translated as Chiang Mai Curry Noodles.  It's a big bowl of noodles with a red curry broth, usually with some ground dried spices and chicken.  This is an easy and fun dish to make at home;  there's a good recipe in Hot Sour Salty Sweet.

The north and northeast also eat a variety of sausages and curries without coconut milk, such as gaeng pa (jungle curry) and gaeng hangleh (Burmese dry curry, usually with pork).  I pretty much never see these things on Thai-American menus.  Gaeng pa paste is usually made with a rhizome called krachai which is in the ginger family but is a different species from ginger or galangal.

Northeastern Thai cooking is derived from Laos.  Are there any Lao restaurants in New Jersey?  I know of one in Seattle, and it serves some pretty good renditions of some of my Isaan favorites, along with a whole bunch of Central Thai stuff demanded by their customers.

I hope this helps.  If you do uncover a genuine regional Thai restaurant in New Jersey, please let me know!

Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

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We went to Wondee's again this past Saturday night. It was so busy we grabbed the only vacant table. We didn't have a chance to talk to her about where she's from since it was so busy, that'll have to wait for a weekday visit.

I did have the steamed fish for the first time. It was served in a broth in a fish shaped vessel with was raised above a sterno holding round cylinder. The striped bass and vegetables were very good, but the broth seemed a little bland. Over time the broth came to a boil and I asked them to put out the flame. By this time the broth had more depth of flavor. It was an interesting experience, but the height of the boiling liquid next to my arm made me nervous. I really love her other fish dishes, so I think I'll stick to them and order the steamed fish at Saigon Republic instead.

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Siam in Lambertville is the best of all, in my humble opinion.  I've been to most of those listed above.  Getting a reservation there, or even anyone to answer the phone, is a big obstacle.  Show up at the door at 6:00, and if you are rejected, go somewhere else -- ( Rick's for fish and red-sauce pasta (cheap!) or Hamilton's Grill Room for expensive American, or Martine's in New Hope, just across the Bridge, for clams in wine).  Anyway, I think Siam has the best Thai in NJ.

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I have had some good meals at Royal Siam in Pearl River, NY (I know it's not NJ, but it's close). I think I like Bankok Gardens in Hackensack better though.

I tried Wondee's once recently with a friend and we found it rather bland. I'll have to give it another chance.

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I had pork satay and a shrimp and pineapple curry, which I asked for medium. The curry was quite good - the satay was VERY bland.

My friend had a a beef and ginger dish, which he requested hot, and pronounced it "not at all spicy".

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you definitely have to make sure you are coming across sincere when ordering spicy at most ethnic places.  all too often dishes are sent back when ordered "spicy" because people don't know what they're getting into.  

i rarely use satay as a barometer.  i think by nature it's pretty insipid.  they make a nice marinated pork at wondee's called moo ping which is a nice change from satay.

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glad to hear that you'll give it another go.  

they make a wonderful crispy duck salad.  if you are inclined to order it, make sure it is the crispy duck salad, rather than the duck larb.  the duck larb is good as well, but that duck salad is sure sometin special.  :smile:

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Ooh, that duck salad is good. I've only had it as a take out the next day (Jason went w/out me and brought me home it but I had already eaten dinner, so brought it to work for lunch). Still really good!

We had that pineapple/shrimp curry the time we went there w/Rosie & Lowell. It's OK, but definitely not the best curry available.

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