By David Minsky
By Jen Mangham
By Bill Wisser
By Laine Doss
By Bill Wisser
By Dana De Greff
By Laine Doss
By Zachary Fagenson
Like the appetizers, the main courses reflected fresh preparation and immediate service, arriving singly as they were ready. Basil duck was crisp and boneless, stir-fried with chili sauce and sweet, pungent basil. Served on a bed of spice rather than vegetables, there was no hiding here -- the duck was on display, the sole focus, and worthy of it. We savored its crisp, flavored skin, its tenderness underneath. This entree alone justified the trip.
Pad woon sen also focused on a single ingredient, the cellophane noodles (vermicelli) for which the dish was named. These thin, wiry noodles, prepared from soybean flour, are only available dried and must be soaked before use. The trick is not to allow them to absorb too much water, or they will soften and stick when cooking. Our woon sen were mixed with scallions, mushrooms, and egg, and were topped with shrimp. Though I wasn't impressed with the quality of the shrimp -- medium-sized, they lacked sweetness -- I thoroughly enjoyed these expertly cooked noodles. The slippery, chewy woon sen had a wonderful flavor, imparted from traditional ingredients like soy and fish sauce.
The sauces, in fact, were one of this restaurant's great strengths. The fish dish we ordered, for instance, featured deep-fried slices of ginger grouper. Inside its coating, the fish was dry. But the flavor of the sauce, as with all the dressings at Thai Silk, was intense and wonderful. Slightly thick, the flowery ginger sauce clung to fish and vegetables and ladled beautifully onto the rice. Thai Silk offers both ginger and fish -- mainly snapper -- in several other dishes, including the popular whole-fish dishes that are often more tender than stir-fried fillets.
Of course, no Thai meal is complete without a curry, and we ordered a vegetable curry. Though many believe curry is a single spice, it is actually a conglomeration of many spices, including coriander, cumin, and red chilies. These spices were ground and mixed with additional flavorings, such as peanuts and even coconut cream. Our vegetables, mostly leafy greens, onions, and broccoli, tasted strongly of the coconut milk in which they were cooked and the curry's ground peanuts. As is typical of Thai curries, the sauce was thin (Indian curries, perhaps more familiar to the dining public, have a stew-like consistency). A terrific complement to the basil duck, this dish was an excellent testimony to the capabilities of Thai Silk's kitchen.
Atirukpinyo, who aside from a prep cook or two is the kitchen, appeared at every table to make chef's recommendations. Her list, taken directly from the menu, was so long we lost track. After the meal, we composed our own highlights: duck, curry, cellophane noodles. These were the true stars, the dishes deserving of emphasis, the fine silky surprises even a hurricane couldn't blow away.