The King & I

7098 Hodgson Memorial Dr. Savannah, GA 31406(912) 355-2100kingandisavannah.com

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The name of this place had me feeling all nostalgic as I entered, because way back in the late 70’s/early 80’s the very first Thai restaurant I ever tried was a place called The King and I in Boston and I remember loving the pad thai out it! That said, this place has no relation to the one in Boston. And I mean NO relation. From service to décor to food, this place is like the Danny Devito to Arnold Schwarzenegger in the movie Twins.

Starting at the biggest pain point, the service is horribly slow. As is the kitchen. And even the dishwashers apparently, either that or they are oddly stingy with their silverware, causing us to not only ask multiple times for serving spoons and knives, but even having to debate the necessity of the utensils with our server.

But as you know, I can forgive a lot if the food is great. Unfortunately I was given very few reasons to make amends. Both the Summer and Spring rolls were decent, but that’s somewhat to be expected. I’m not sure I ever recall having bad ones.

And as for the main dishes, the pad Thai was oily (pictured), the panang scallops were over-cooked, the green curry with chicken was okay and the chicken with broccoli was rather bland.

Sigh. I miss Boston.

1 tooth

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Uncle Boons

7 Spring St. New York, NY 10012 (646) 370-6650 uncleboons.com

Mieng Kung, betel leaf wrap with ginger, lime, toasted coconut, dried shrimp, chilies and peanuts at Uncle Boons, a newly opened Thai restaurant and bar in SoHo.â€(R)CREDIT: Agaton Strom for The Wall Street Journalâ€(R)SLUG: HH.UncleBoons Published Credit: Agaton Strom for The Wall Street Journal

Having waited a stupid amount of time to get into the extraordinarily disappointing Spotted Pig, you’d think I’d’ve learned my lesson with these overrated, no-reservation-taking, wastes of time. But apparently not, because one again I found myself standing there like a puppy dog, panting before the hostess in the hopes of getting a table. But had I been more self aware, perhaps I would’ve noticed déjà vu staring me in the face.

Nonetheless, my stubbornness persevered and on we marched to the back room through a tiki-style décor that did little to put a smile on my face, only to then begin a meal that would have a lot of splainin’ to do (to be read like Desi Arnaz).

Out of the gate, the gripes began with the Frozen Basil Vodka which was very good, but I think they majorly skimped on the portion, serving it in a half-filled glass. Never seen that before and I’m guessing it was because they ran out of the cocktail by 8pm on a Friday night. Something else I’d never seen before and I’m not sure which is the more inexcusable part of the story. To run out of booze by 8pm on a Friday night? Or to charge full price for a half-full glass of it?!

But at least it tasted good, the other drink our server recommended, the Bolan, was so god awful that we sent it back after one sip, opting for the Baa Baa Bo Bo which was a nice, spicy-sweet twist on a margarita.

Getting back to our server, however, she was so miserable that she ruined the experience for us (not that the food wouldn’t have done if for her), giving not one recommendation and lying through her blatantly apathetic teeth, saying everything is amazing. It’s not. Far from it. So, between her piss pour attitude and trying to charge us for that drink that she pawned off on us when they ran out of the one we liked, Uncle Boons was starting to look like that creepy uncle we all try to avoid at obligatory family outings.

Toxic service aside, now for the over-hyped menu, starting with the spicy chicken, which while spicy, was also just okay- oh, and it’s completely mislabeled as a small plate. Unless you’re Andre the Giant.

The mango salad is slightly better, but nothing worthy of the wait we endured and neither is the Thai blood sausage, for that matter, tasting a slight notch above Alpo.

And while I would love nothing more than to go on and on shitting all over this place, my integrity is going to get the better of me as I must give props where props are do, even though it pains me to do so.

The first prop going to the dorade. It is so phenomenal that it just might be the best whole fish I’ve ever had. Charcoal roasted and served with charred leeks and a Nam Prik dipping sauce that is pinch-yourself ah-maze-ing!

And believe it or not, we also stayed for dessert, regardless of the abysmal hit ratio thus far, primarily out of spite for having made us wait so long for the table, so I suppose we felt like holding onto the damn thing as long as we could. A philosophy that paid its dividends quite quickly in the form of a rich, creamy, texture-filled coconut ice cream, topped with fresh-made whipped cream, more coconut shavings on top, as well charred nuts, which kinda steal the show.

But even with the strong ending, Uncle Boons was climbing out of a hole so deep it came out the other side of the world in Thailand.

2 teeth

Exit 4

153 E Main St. Mount Kisco, NY 10549 • (914) 241-1200exit4foodhall.com

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The concept of this place is interesting to say the least. Sort of like a mini food court that’s not located in a mall and not made up of your usual chains like Panda Express and Sbarro’s. It’s actually all locally sourced, serving up a jack-of-all-trades menu from all over the map (or more specifically all over Northern Westchseter), yet somehow they manage to let you put it all on one bill (that you kinda have to carry around with you from pavilion to pavilion- it’s complicated).

It’s also a dynamic than can easily become a recipe for disaster should you arrive and not know what you want. Especially with young kids who will quickly become more overwhelmed with the choices than Robin Williams in Moscow on the Hudson.

On the upside, most everything is surprisingly good, so it’s kinda hard to go too, too wrong, unless you have wildly high expectations. When I say “surprising,” however, I want to temper that by stating that I mean it only in the context of lowered expectations. Nothing will have you swinging from a star, but if you’d rather eat a pig, a fish or a mule, they pretty much have you covered (that was for all you Sinatra fans).

So here’s how I recommend playing it:

Step 1: Grab a table. Put your stuff down and have a member of your party stand guard. The last thing you want to do is get caught with seven trays of grub and nowhere to sit.

Step 2: Order the stuff that takes longer to make first. This would be your pastas, your pizzas, your burger and your bahn mi that are all cooked to order. Whereas the tacos, and barbecue offerings are much more prepped and take about two minutes or less to hit your table. So, assuming you like your family or friends, and want to actually eat “together,” then I recommend doing these options near the end of the batting order.

Step 3: Order stuff that doesn’t need to be ice cold or nice and hot dead last. This would be your sushi and glasses of red wine.

Step 4: Bon apetit!

So now that you’ve circumnavigated one of the more complex dining matrixes in the tri-state, here are my thoughts on the offerings themselves.

First up, let’s start with the sushi, sourced from Mt. Kisco Seafood down the street, so you know it’s pretty darn fresh. But more than just fresh, the sashimi bowls and the maki are really quite inventive and a step up from a lot of other places in the immediate vicinity. Yes, that goes for you Hito and Spoon.

Next up, let’s go Italian. Or more specifically the pizza, because the only pasta I’ve had there was my daughter’s kidsy butter and shells. So not really fair to judge them on that. My daughter, on the other hand, has a ways to go in terms of expanding the ole horizons. As for the pies, I liked both the fig, prosciutto and caramelized onion pie and the one with Brussels sprouts, smoked pancetta and gruyere. Neither compare to the likes of The Parlor in Dobbs or Zero Otto Nove in Armonk, but they hold their own handily against Old Stone and Village Social, which I actually think has one of the best pies in town. Nonetheless, the pizza is good enough to make you forget all about the fact that this place used to be Belizzi (RIP).

And now let’s take things down a notch. As in down South. As in TexMex and barbecue. Starting at the top, I’d go with the brisket sammy. It’s quite solid, topped with a bourbon sauce, slaw and cornichon. After that I’d go with the pulled pork. The sauce has a nice kick to it and it also comes with slaw on it as well. It’s not what I would call a runaway smash hit, but unless you’re willing to roll your bones all the way over to Portchester for Q, then it’ll do the trick. That said, little known secret- Dinosaur BBQ is available via Fresh direct. As is some seriously spicy slaw and brioche sliders. So if you don’t feel like venturing out for your barb-e-fix, then call in the reinforcements. Oh, and skip the tacos if you ask me. Truck and Hacienda are both miles better.

And most importantly… the booze. They have a nice selection of beer and wine by the glass so no complaints there either. Nor do I have many complaints on the whole. Exit 4 is a nice addition to the hood and the only other “something-for-everyone” deal in town apart from Village Social. So, if you’re like me and you’re saddled with two kids who don’t agree on anything when if comes to food, this “good enough” fare quickly becomes good on ya!

3 teeth

Qi

675 8th Ave. New York, NY 10036(212) 247-8991qirestaurant.com

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For the area it’s a refreshing change of pace from the touristy hell that is Times Square. With its vibe and décor the place exudes a cool similar to that of Peep down in Soho, but without the voyeuristic bathroom. That said, the food is not quite as good as Peep, but it’s still good. And the prices, like Peep, are VERY reasonable- especially when you get the lunch special. So reasonable, with a drink, an app and pad thai, the bill came to $10. You can’t even get a sandwich and a soda in this city for less than $10. And that’s without chips!

I didn’t notice the bad service, however, mentioned by hordes of others. I also didn’t think anything was so good it was worth more than 3 stars… So, guess what I’m giving it…

3 teeth

Waka

95 King St. Chappaqua, NY 10514 • (914) 861-2727 • wakafusion.com

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I have only actually been there once, so most of this review is based on delivery, which I have done about fifty times. Usually for sushi, although this last time I tapped into their pan Asian offerings and I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised on the Chinese. Thai not-so much.

But first let’s get back to the basics. The décor is contemporary and clean. Service is warm and friendly, with that local, small-business vibe about it.

And as for the sushi, it’s pretty impressive by delivery standards. I honestly don’t think we have better sushi delivery in Northern Westchester. In fact, when we lived in the city we didn’t even have better fish. Which is really what makes Waka shine. They seem to always get extremely fresh tuna, salmon and yellowtail. Eel is cooked so it doesn’t count.

They also have a ton of inventive rolls, but freshness is obviously the true measure of a Japanese restaurant. You can always hide sub-par fish beneath a gaggle of maki companions and still make it taste good.

So apart from Azuma in Hartsdale (haven’t tried Nanase yet), there’s none better in the burbs.

And to think that they can pull off Chinese well too? Two hats off. The Chinese eggplant with garlic sauce was on point and so was the crispy shrimp with pineapple. Haven’t ventured into their lo mein as of yet. Or any of the other Chinese, staples, but I will, so stay tuned.

Unfortunately they fall WAY short of the trifecta, however. Their Thai needs some serious help. Both the pad Thai and red curry beef tasted like the cardboard partition they stick in the delivery bag.

But please don’t let that discourage you from giving them a try, after all, doing two things well is still mighty hard. Heck, Michael Jordan couldn’t even do it!

3 teeth

Thai Angel’s

155 Lexington Ave. Mount Kisco, NY 10549 • (914) 666-0937

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I only ordered take out, so I can’t really speak too thoroughly about service or decor. But, what brief service I had, was good. So no complaints there. Decor is on par with most purist Thai places, which means unchanged since the 70’s. For some reason the contemporary decor trends of the 21st haven’t taken to Thai restaurants like they have with other Asian restaurants.

And as for the name, I have to admit it sounds more like a place to get a sensual massage than a bite to eat.

But all of that aside, I unfortunately didn’t find the food to be all that impressive. Thai House in Ardsley is MUCH better. As is Noodle+ in White Plains.

But for Northern Westchester, I guess it’s the only game in town because the Pad Thai at Waka is an abomination and Spoon is just a train wreck. So, it’ll have to do. Just wish it was better.

2 teeth

Noodle+

245 Main St. White Plains, NY 10601(914) 948-4950 • noodle-plus.com
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While not a destination unto itself, Noodles+ is a definitely a nice change of pace option for a pre-movie dinner solve. Unfortunately the dining room is tiny and they don’t take reservations, so don’t count on getting a table. But if you’re lucky, it’s reasonably adequate Thai if that’s what you’re craving.

We had the crab/pork/veggie dumplings, which were just okay. I had the drunken noodles with shrimp, which was good, not great. The bubble tea was also just okay. The other two dishes we had were the shrimp wonton noodle soup, which was, again, good not great, and last but not least, the duck noodle soup, which was also good… but you guessed it, not great.

Service was fine, however, so they must have improved. So that’s a plus. Get it… the name of the place is… oh, never mind.

2 teeth

Republic

37 Union Sq. West New York, NY 10003 • (212) 627-7172thinknoodles.com
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If you’re shopping in the hood and you can’t get a table at the Coffee Shop or Blue Water Grill or Tarallucci e Vino, then you’ve come to the right place. Tons of seating, which is good, and relatively quick turnover, which is especially nice during the winter shopping season, when waiting for a table sucks times ten. The other nice thing about visiting here in the winter is for their great soups. The one I always get is the spicy beef and noodle soup. Hella spicy, but nose-running good.

Pad thai and glass noodle chicken is also up to snuff. As well as your typical pan-Asian starters like pot stickers and fried wontons. Oh, and very good, very strong cocktails as well.

Service, on the other hand, often blows. Typically very unaccommodating in virtually every way possible. And it’s almost as if they take pride in it- assholes. That said, the last time I was there, around the holidays, they were uncharacteristically nice. Maybe they were trying to get off of the naughty list.

But assholes or angels, at least the food and drink are always good.

3 teeth

Peep

177 Prince St. New York, NY 10012(212) 254-7337 •  peepsoho.net

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While shopping in Soho, we stumbled upon this place by accident and man am I glad we did. What a find! First of all, the decor is very cool. Sleek, modern and little something special for those who visit the bathroom. Well, special if you’ve ever been curious about exhibitionism.

Service is nice and fast. And the food- I swear, I can’t think of a better thai restaurant in the city. Seriously. If you know one, please do tell. Because Qi, Pongsri, Larb Ubol and Jai et Thai have nothing on this place. Everything was excellent from the appetizers to the entrees to the classics like Pad Thai.

But here is the kick. Guess how much it was for three people to have lunch? With Three apps and three entrees? Are you sitting down?

$27 including tax! In New York City! In Soho!

Okay, now pick yourself up off of the floor and go.  What do you have to lose (except maybe modesty, if you venture to the bathroom)?

4 teeth

Arun’s Thai Restaurant

4156 N. Kedzie Ave. Chicago, IL 60618(773) 539-1909arunsthai.com

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5 knives for presentation. However, the service suffers because of it. Somewhat understandable when you see the presentations, after all, it must take some 30 minutes each to put together, carving carrots into butterflies and fowl, but it really ruins the flow of a tasting menu when you have to wait 30 to 40 minutes between each course. I ate there years ago and if they had a few more courses in the tasting I’d probably still be there! I also have to say that while the food was very good, it didn’t necessarily live up to the hype. For significantly less money I could have just as satisfying a Thai meal at Star of Siam (also in Chicago) in a fraction of the time. Hell, I could have 6 meals at Star, back to back, in a fraction of the time.

3 teeth