It's the time of year when Chowhounds crave soft-shell crabs, and an awesome Thai version has surfaced at Ayada in Queens. Simon, a veteran Thailand traveler, describes perfectly cooked crab, heavy on luscious backfin meat and served with a heap of fresh, deftly balanced papaya salad that some consider the city's best. The bamboo salad, or supnormai, is another smart order.
There's another standout soft-shell at The Clam in the West Village, which serves it with tomato-cayenne butter and a refreshing fennel-cabbage slaw. This New American seafood house—opened early this year by Chef Mike Price of Market Table a couple blocks away—also makes a shrimp cocktail with avocado and sweet-tart dressing that transports thegforceny back to Mexico's Pacific coast. The 'hounds add that service here is some of the nicest they've encountered around town.
Other soft-shell crab dishes that have New Yorkers talking can be found at Maysville, the Southern-style whiskey bar, which pairs them with pigeon peas, ramps, and tartar sauce; Union Square Cafe, where they come with spicy tomato sauce, zucchini, and lemon aioli; and Chinatown's Great New York Noodletown, a longtime late-night destination for its salt-and-pepper crabs.
77-08 Woodside Avenue (between 77th and 78th streets), Elmhurst, Queens
The Clam [West Village]
420 Hudson Street (at Leroy Street), Manhattan
17 W. 26th Street (between Sixth Avenue and Broadway), Manhattan
Union Square Cafe [Union Square]
21 E. 16th Street (between Fifth Avenue and Union Square West), Manhattan
Great New York Noodletown [Chinatown]
28 Bowery (at Bayard Street), Manhattan
Photo of Great New York Noodletown's soft-shell crabs by Mark Hokoda