Huu Muu Sawan – Heavenly Pigs Ears, Whiskey & Chili Glazed with Sawtooth and Scallion
Mee-Krob – Sweetbreads, Crispy Noodle Salad, Peanuts, Dried Shrimp, Egg, Sawtooth, Tamarind
Pla Muuk – Grilled Baby Octopus, Charred Lime, Tamarind Sauce
Sai Krok Ampai – Grilled Issan Pork & Rice Sour Sausage / Khao Gun Jiin – Blood Sausage, Kaffir Lime, Herbs wrapped in Banana Leaf
Khao Soi Kaa Kai – Northern Style Golden Curry, Homemade Egg Noodles, Chicken Leg, Pickled Mustard Greens, Fresh Turmeric
Caramelized Milk Toast
Opened by Per Se alumni Ann Redding and Matt Danzer in 2013, the restaurant’s daily 5:30pm opening still marked by lines at the door due to the limited number of reservations and popularity built on Beard Award nominations, countless Best of Lists and the only Michelin Star for Thai food in Manhattan, Uncle Boons was picked for the final dinner during a recent trip to New York largely as a result of location and curiosity, the results marred by only steamy temperatures and a noise level most accurately described as “scream to be heard by someone seated at arm’s length.”
Certainly not a mom n’ pop Thai spot frequented by locals craving Drunken Noodles or Tom Yum, the theme that of a 1970’s Bangkok Dive-Bar complete with region specific music, dark wood and low ceilings, it was at precisely six o’clock that two adults and one child approached the doors of a step-down space that sprawls back from a crowded Bar to two rooms divided by a long hallway, a reservation made 14-days in advance circumventing what was already a thirty-minute wait for four that expanded to 2.5 hours for a two-top by 7:30 on a Saturday.
Well received by travelers and critics alike, Redding’s youth spent in Thailand explaining how two Caucasians who met while cooking in Thomas Keller’s Michelin 3* kitchen at Time Warner Center came to own a Restaurant known for Curry, Larb and Boxing Arena snacks, those sitting down at Uncle Boons will quickly realize that this is not a concept built on Hipster sensibilities and ‘fusion,’ but rather a serious operation that refuses to take itself too seriously, the plates all featured by their traditional name and composed of well-sourced ingredients.
More expensive than the average Thai spot, yet still amongst the cheapest Red Guide rated restaurants outside of Bib Gourmand, it was after being seated in a cozy corner booth that a young waitress stopped by with water and menus, the frequently changed options accurate from Uncle Boon’s Website which made things easy, a total of six plates and two sides served as they were readied by the kitchen, mostly in five to fifteen minute intervals.
Undoubtedly trying to create a certain mood by way of the music and densely-packed tables, the servers cut from that smile-always cloth that almost seems fake because diners subjected to such volume and conditions are challenged to believe anyone would want to be subjected to such things day after day, it was shortly after placing an order that plates one and two arrived just as the air-conditioning clicked off, the Sweetbreads Mee-Krob a pleasantly funky dish pairing fried Offal with crispy Noodles, Peanuts and the bold flavor of dried Shrimp while the “Huu Muu Sawan” drinking snack was hot, tangy and cooked just enough to slightly melt the cartilage while still leaving plenty of tender Meat.
Detailing a section of the menu as Ahaan Yang, or Charcoal Grilled Goodies, plates three and four took on a smoky note thanks to Danzer and Redding’s desire to serve a style of Thai food not typically seen stateside and although the whole Baby Octopus were a tad more chewy than charred the $15 Thai Sausage Duo was sensational, the Sour Issan Sausage featuring a good snap and smooth grind while the Khao Gun Jiin was a creamy, spreadable sensation with a texture not dissimilar to N’duja but an even more concentrated iron tinge that is still evident above the citrus and spice.
Enjoying a bit of sticky Rice with the Sausages, a $3 fold of Roti saved for the sizable bowl of Golden Curry featuring Chicken, pickled Greens and homemade Egg Noodles both boiled and fried, those expecting something creamy may very well be disappointed by the somewhat thin broth heavily spiced in Turmeric, though it seems unlikely that any would take issue with the Caramelized Milk Toast Dessert that serves a thick slice of Brioche completely soaked at its center but shatteringly crisp on the exterior.