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Somtum Der – Great New Isaan Style Thai, But Hold The Somtum

Don't give up on the somtum here too quickly. I've been here four times now, and each time the somtum was slightly different. Perhaps because every person makes it slightly different, and it can vary from day to day. "A pinch of this, a handful of that" - I don't think anything is measured precisely. As I said in another Somtum Der thread, one time (at lunch) the somtum seemed pre-made to me (it might have just been my impression, and not correct, because somebody was working the somtum station). I'm sure you know to ask for the desired amount of chiles (from zero to five) which will get you to the desired level of heat. Last time I got three chiles, next time I'll get four! Unlike some restaurants who don't specialize in somtum, the chiles here are fresh, not dried… big difference.

I like their somtum a lot, and I will defend it! LOL.

Feb 02, 2014
K2000 in Manhattan

Somtum Der (East Village)

I've been to Somtum Der three times now. I spent two weeks in Thailand last year, which hardly makes me an expert on Thai food, but I know a little bit. I think Somtum Der is a good addition to the local Thai choices.

The first night, I had the Somtum Thai style (dried shrimps etc) with two peppers. Spicy for the average person maybe, but I felt like I could go hotter. I was very happy with the Somtum. Larb Moo (pork) was good, perhaps not as funky as Zabb Elee (no liver, for one thing). Nice amount of aromatic herbs. Not the best Larb I've eaten in my life, but delicious nonetheless. Dining room was full (weekend), so I ate at the counter in front.

I went back for their lunch special, and got the deep fried chicken thigh, and Somtum Thai (yes, again - it's one of my favorite Thai dishes). The chicken thigh was excellent, with the deep fried garlic bits strewn on top, and the dipping sauce was simple but excellent. The Somtum seemed like it was pre-prepared, which seemed odd because it looked like somebody was working the Somtum station. Only a few people eating lunch there on a weekday.

The most recent trip was a weeknight, restaurant was half full. I ordered the Larb Ped (duck) and the Somtum Poo Pla Ra (with field crabs). This was me being adventerous, as I usually don't care much for duck (it's okay) when it's prepared as a roast, or Peking style (etc). Larb Ped was good though, and I enjoyed it. The Som Tum Poo was a little too hardcore for me due to the pieces of field crabs. They are crunchy, and it got to be a tough slog for me. Well, I had the same reaction to baby crabs as 'pan chan' prepared Korean style. Lesson learned, crabs are not for me. The crabs weren't funky, they had a fresh briny taste (my issue was texture). This time I requested 3 peppers in the somtum, and that was spicy (but I think I will shoot for 4 next time).

I had sticky rice all three visits - good. Iced coffee with milk was good, and a floral iced tea was also good. The staff seem very nice, and they seemed friendly and attentive to me. The menu is somewhat more limited in comparison to Sriphipahai and Zabb Elee, but there is still a lot to choose from, and I know that I will almost always want Somtum anyway, no matter what else I order.

One more comment - this restaurant is authentic Thai, and Zabb Elee is as well. I find the comments regarding 'authenticity' unfortunate, and I wonder if non-Thai restaurants are scrutinized in this way. I guess it's a result of all the bland Thai restaurants we've all tried in the past, where the menu was heavily modified for American palates. Anyway, in my opinion folks need to realize that everybody prepares dishes differently (as you would expect with every other cuisine) and that's obviously true even in Thailand. But if you encountered a dish with a different preparation style in Thailand, would you say that the restaurant is "not the real deal" or "not authentic"? i don't think so. You'd just say you like that dish better when it's prepared somewhere else.

One last thing - somebody suggested that Somtum Der makes their somtum using noodles - they do not, except for the "house style" has deep fried noodles in the mix (I believe they have 8 styles to choose from, and that's the only one with noodles).

Anyway, it's worth a visit, IMO.

Oct 27, 2013
K2000 in Manhattan
1

Arby's is now fresh!

Going after Subway's customer base is a smart move. If they would upgrade the quality of their meat (granted, I have not eaten there in over 10 years) the chain could see a resurgence.

If I'm not mistaken, Arby's used to serve real roast beef. At least, that's what it seemed like when I was a kid.

Oct 14, 2012
K2000 in Chains

Do people dislike Taqueria Coatzingo?

I never told you what I ordered. But if a restaurant's menu is a minefield, with some good dishes and others that need to be avoided at all costs, then the restaurant doesn't deserve to be recommended, in my opinion. There are too many other restaurants where you don't have to do that.

Any Mexican restaurant with bad salsa is a terrible Mexican restaurant, by definition.

Tacos Veloz is much better than Coatzingo (there are several Tacos Veloz in the Jackson Heights area). There's one on Roosevelt Avenue around 92nd street. There's another in the 80's on Roosevelt Avenue as well, and maybe one more. It's not fancy and much more limited menu than Coatzingo, but the food is great. Try the carnitas at the one in the 90s.

Oct 14, 2012
K2000 in Outer Boroughs

Do people dislike Taqueria Coatzingo?

I've been there a half-dozen times, and the food is inconsistent at best. I usually find it disappointing, and not worth traveling for (I don't live in Jackson Heights). They can't get the easy things right -- for example, the side order of rice (on a platillo/platter) has been terrible. Come on. Another time, the salsa tasted like it was mixed with italian salad dressing... the worst salsa in memory. If you can't serve a decent salsa, it's time to close down. I don't understand why Chowhounds like this place, except they are open late. I rate it as average/below average Mexican for New York (which isn't good).

Oct 01, 2012
K2000 in Outer Boroughs

Pop Burger (9th Avenue/Chelsea) review

White Castle is better, even if Pop Burger isn't three or four times as expensive.

I reviewed this place because after doing a search on Chowhound, I was surprised to see it hadn't been reviewed before. I also assumed it was a new place jumping on the "trendy burger" bandwagon, because I had never noticed it before. I was shocked to learn that it's been open for years. They must make all their money in the bar section of the business, because the food sucks.

May 14, 2012
K2000 in Manhattan

Before movie dinner suggestions for Court near Atlantic

Bedouin Tent, 405 Atlantic. Excellent babaganoush and shawerma, etc. I believe the wonderful pita bread is made on premises.

Shake Shack, 409 Fulton Street (does not get as crowded as other locations). Great burgers and frozen custard.

Mile End, 97 Hoyt Street. Deli food 'Montreal style" -- the smoked meat sandwich will make you forget pastrami and corned beef.

May 13, 2012
K2000 in Outer Boroughs

Smorgasburg: What a Pretentious Rip Off.....

I've only been to Smorgasburg once, it was later in the afternoon and so there weren't long lines. Some of the vendors were winding down. The view was nice. But my biggest reaction was the actual setting... a gravel-filled lot where dust was blowing around everywhere. Why would anybody think that was an appealing setting to prepare (or consume) food?

May 13, 2012
K2000 in Outer Boroughs

Pop Burger (9th Avenue/Chelsea) review

It might be more accurate to say it's in the Meatpacking District, not Chelsea.

May 11, 2012
K2000 in Manhattan

Pop Burger (9th Avenue/Chelsea) review

In a word, awful.

The Pop Burger is two small separate mini burgers boxed up side-by-side (not normal size patties stacked on the same bun). I guess it was a brioche? Extra bready bun, in any case. They don't skimp on the bun volume (sarcasm). The meat patties were small and relatively flavorless, about the same as the beef you get at a fast food joint (but with gourmet prices... $8.25 for the Pop Burger(s). They also had some shredded lettuce and 1000 Island/Secret Sauce. I'm not sure why they choose this format (tandem burgers) -- maybe it's supposed to be cute, or easy to handle. The Pop Burger was not good, in any case. Edible is the best thing I can say. Big bun and small, flavorless meat.

The french fries were good, I'm guessing they were battered and twice-fried? I'm not sure how they were prepared, but not unlike the style of fries at Popeyes (minus the Cajun spices) for a ballpark comparison. $4

Possibly the worst milk shake I've ever had. Certainly the worst one that I can remember. Lets see, foamy (lots of air) and it tasted like it was made from a mix. Weak, artificial chocolate flavor. Worse than what you get at a franchise. Much worse. $5.75

Now maybe I ordered the wrong things, but I assumed that the namesake hamburger for 8 dollars would be a safe bet. And the decor boasts "frosty shakes" or something along those lines (big cutout steel sign). But this food was lousy. And my bill was over 20 dollars... outrageous.

I don't mind dropping a bundle on a hamburger and ice cream, I do that at the Shake Shack every couple months. I'm willing to pay more (a lot more) than what you pay at a franchise (Wendys, etc) if the food is really good. Unfortunately, this wasn't good. I honestly feel ripped off. It's more expensive than Shake Shack, and not nearly as good, not even close. It's not even as good as Wendys or Burger King. Even McDonalds is better.

I should mention the music was loud, to the point that it almost drove me out of the restaurant. Pounding. I noticed a lounge in the back when I was washing up, and I just checked out the Pop Burger website where they tout their lounge. So maybe that's their real business. But the food up front was dreadful. There's no reason to blast music in the restaurant section, but this place seems to be all about style over substance.

I only went here because Chelsea Market was closed (I like the Lobster Place and the Thai kitchen, and I was in the neighborhood). Never again.

May 11, 2012
K2000 in Manhattan

Bob's Red Mill in bulk?

Lots of supermarkets carry items from Bob's Red Mill. Just off the top of my head, in Ridgewood (my neighborhood) Key Foods on Myrtle Ave, and Price Choice Foods on Fresh Pond Road.

But the best prices are IMO when buying mail order. I like the website Netrition.com (apologies if this is forbidden) they are cheaper than retail, and shipping is 4.95 via UPS no matter how heavy your order is. If I order online in the morning, it gets shipped same-day, and delivered next-day (they are located in NY state).

I'm sure there are other websites selling 'health food' that also have good prices, so feel free to compare. I have had good experiences with Netrition, especially because of their flat rate shipping. And they carry a lot of different items, including what appears to be the full line of Bob's Red Mill.

Apr 11, 2012
K2000 in Outer Boroughs

Two new-ish places in Ridgewood... Sabores (Peruvian) and Long Lai (Thai)

Thanks for the reply (I like your posts, I've referred to them when I am looking for local places). I haven't walked that way on Woodward for a while, I'll have to check that place out. The nearby Super Pollo has pretty good rotisserie chicken. But that's a 15 minute walk for me. Maybe Thai Village replaced the Polish (or was it Continental) restaurant that was on the block?

Long Lai is a lot closer for me. You may be familiar with the breakfast/lunch place that Long Lai shares facilities with (it may be all in the family). And Sabores is really really close, I really should give them some business.

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Sabores
392 Woodward Ave, Queens, NY 11385

Super Pollo
865 Woodward Ave, Queens, NY 11385

Nov 19, 2011
K2000 in Outer Boroughs

Two new-ish places in Ridgewood... Sabores (Peruvian) and Long Lai (Thai)

More of a heads-up than review (I haven't even tried Sabores yet) since Ridgewood is pretty dismal for restaurants (you have to walk 15 minutes just to get mediocre food).

Sabores is on the corner of Stanhope and Woodward, across from the cemetary. Billed as "Peruvian and International" it was formerly a bar/restaurant that seemed to function more as a bar. Now it's under new management and my impression is that the emphasis is on food now. It smells fantastic when I walk by, but I haven't tried it yet.

Long Lai is sharing the space with the sandwich shop/lunch place on Stockholm and Seneca (377 Seneca). After about 4pm, they start serving Thai food. I've had take-out from them about 4 times (there's a dining room there, but it has a strange ambiance, and I live steps away). The food is good, not amazing, Thai. As far as I know, it's the only Thai restaurant in the area. Pad Thai was good, a little strange to me (but everybody prefers it prepared differently). Lad Nar was very good, not soupy like some places. Best thing I've had from them. Good Som Tum (spicy!) and the Thai Kock appetizer was good (Thai sausage, my first time tasting that). Basil chicken, Tom Kha soup, and "Fresh" Rolls: all good. This will not become your favorite Thai restaurant in NYC, but it will be your favorite in Ridgewood :)

Just a heads up since these places do not look very busy, and it's good to see new restaurants turning up in a neighborhood that's a little under-served in that department.

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Bravo Cafe Concert
377 Seneca Ave, Queens, NY 11385

Sabores
392 Woodward Ave, Queens, NY 11385

Nov 19, 2011
K2000 in Outer Boroughs

Best 5 restaurants in Jackson Heights?

I do like Taco Veloz on Roosevelt, just west of the corner of Junction Blvd. Hole in the wall kind of place, has literally amazing carnitas. Another Taco Veloz on Roosevelt I visited was a walk-up window (Taco Veloz seems to be a small chain) also had great carnitas. Authentic!

Zabb Elee on Roosevelt and 71st was fantastic. Better than Sripriphai? (Different menus... no curry at Zabb Elee from what I could see).

Pho Bac in nearby Elmhurst has great pho. Maybe the best I've had in NYC.

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Zabb Elee
71-28 Roosevelt Ave, Queens, NY 11372

Pho Bac
82-78 Broadway, Queens, NY 11373

Nov 19, 2011
K2000 in Outer Boroughs

Best 5 restaurants in Jackson Heights?

Maybe I'm ordering the wrong thing (tacos?) but the Coatzingo on Roosevelt is terribly overrated here, in my opinion. First of all, their salsa is absolutely awful. It tastes like it's been cut with Italian salad dressing from the bottle. Just that alone should tell you something. The al pastor meat is okay, but too... overseasoned? It gets cloying. Maybe this place make a great version and I don't like al pastor. But I don't think so. About five meals here, the first one was best (al pastor plate) with every subsequent visit, I'm asking myself "why do I come here?" Even the rice side order on the platillos is mediocre. It's somewhat authentic Mexican, but lousy for tacos, in my experience. And if you can't get the easy stuff right...

Anybody want to recommend some stellar dishes at Coatzingo, I'm all ears. But right now, I'm not seeing it.

Nov 19, 2011
K2000 in Outer Boroughs

Shake Shack is Amamzing

Shake Shack makes noticeably better burgers & fries than 5 Guys, for the same price. The frozen custard is the real draw though... the unusual flavors of the daily special. I really prefer the Madison Square Park location - makes a huge difference to be able to eat outside in the park. The Theater District location seems really disorganized and the food there is inconsistent.

Sep 10, 2010
K2000 in Manhattan

What's NOT GOOD at Trader Joe's??? [OLD]

The sushi totally sucks. Trader Joes makes the worst supermarket sushi I've ever had.

Sep 10, 2010
K2000 in Chains

five guys burger sucks

5 Guys is overpriced. The food is nothing special, okay... but why pay double for what you would get at Wendy's? The 5 Guys food is cooked to order - I really can't taste the difference, but it means 5 or 10 extra minutes waiting around to get your food. Also, if the secret to 'good' fries is to get them out of the bag ASAP, then why on earth does 5 Guys put every order (including the "to stay" orders) in a bag, in the first place? It's not an accident that the fries are getting steamed - 5 Guys is making it happen. I have to outsmart my fast food restaurant? Totally overrated and overpriced, and no reason to go there in my opinion.

Sep 10, 2010
K2000 in Chains

what's the best thai in greenpoint or williamsburg

Planet Thai has been closed for almost two years I believe, and never offered delivery service. I always liked their food though - not as authentic as some, but quality ingredients and very reasonable prices.

Sep 06, 2010
K2000 in Outer Boroughs

What's So Great About 5 Guys?

I think it's called 5 Guys because it takes five guys to make your food.

I've been to the Queens Blvd. location twice now - I will not go back again. For six dollars, the regular cheeseburger (two patties) kind of sucks. For that money, your hamburger should be great. In NYC, you can spend the same amount of money at the Shake Shack and the food is significantly better.

At 5 Guys, they drench your burger in condiments. If I'm paying 6 dollars for a cheeseburger, why would I want it to taste mainly like ketchup? The fries are decent (skin on) but not great, and they are almost 3 dollars. The regular fries is enough for two people, and I understand the large is the same size as three larges at other burger places... family size.

Their food may be better than Wendy's but it's pretty darn close in comparison, and 5 Guys is double the price. Almost 12 dollars for a double cheeseburger, fries and soda, and add in a tip (there's a tip jar on the counter). Try it and see for yourself, we all like different things. I'm not a fan.

Jun 03, 2010
K2000 in Chains

Trader Joe's Smoked Salmon

I think the budget-priced brand at Trader Joes is fine (13 dollars a pound I think). I'm not an expert, although I've had lox from Russ & Daughters and Zabars - but I do think the packaged stuff at Trader Joes is good too.

Jun 03, 2010
K2000 in Chains

What's NOT GOOD at Trader Joe's??? [OLD]

Their prices for ground beef are pretty good, and the shaved steak isn't too expensive, and that's something I've never seen at any other store.

I also like their prices on smoked salmon, and no-nitrates bacon.

Jun 03, 2010
K2000 in Chains

What's NOT GOOD at Trader Joe's??? [OLD]

The sushi is terrible - worse than the average grocery store sushi, if you can believe that.

Jun 03, 2010
K2000 in Chains

Dunkin Donuts Dark Roast [moved from General Topics]

I had an iced one, and brought it home where I added my own half & half.

It had a sour acidic taste to it - not good. It's stronger than the regular coffee (which is pretty worthless IMO) but not something I will spend almost 3 dollars on again. I can make MUCH better coffee at home, and much cheaper (just got the DD because I had a sink full of dirty dishes and needed coffee quick)

Jun 03, 2010
K2000 in Chains

Williamsburg grocery shopping

There's a C-Town on Graham, just off the corner at Metropolitan Ave. They only have a few things worth buying (Scandinavian flatbread, some Italian items, etc). They have no produce section. It's really not a very good grocery store... mostly canned goods and so on.

There's also a C-Town on Havermeyer, a few blocks south of Metropolitan, which is somewhat better (but not great).

Sep 09, 2008
K2000 in Outer Boroughs

Stealing Bar Glasses

Empty Classico pasta sauce jars make excellent pint glasses.

Also, Kmart has cheap glassware.

Sep 09, 2008
K2000 in Features

Need an Asian Market that is easy via MTA

I'm near the L and JMZ trains in Ridgewood. I usually get my kimchi, dumplings etc in Manhattan, at the convenience store on 3rd Ave and 11th street (can remember the name). I'd be glad to shop the outer boroughs but Flushing seems out of the question... that's 3 trains for me... too remote.

Is there a good (and maybe large) Asian market that I can access, with my limited transportation options? I'm near Metropolitan Ave so a bus ride would be okay. But I can't spend an hour on public transportation each way, just to get my kimchi.

If there is a great market in Chinatown that has kimchi in bulk sizes, I'd be glad to get those recommendations, too.

Jun 25, 2008
K2000 in Outer Boroughs

Best of Williamsburg?

Union Picnic is open again (According to Free Williamsburg it's called "Jimmy's Diner" now). We ate there for the first time ever, about a month ago. Okay food... fried chicken w/ mashed potatoes was pretty good (would have preferred to not have gravy on the chicken). Large serving of potatoes but no other sides, which seemed stingey for the price ($10). A little itty-bit of cole slaw or a small serving of greens would have been much appreciated, but not something I wanted to pay extra for (side orders are 4 bucks). My friend said his Mac & Cheese tasted "off". I wondered if it was "off" as would be expected with goat cheese or non-traditional cheeses... he said it tasted spoiled. On the other hand the deep-fried deviled eggs appetizer was good, we both thought. He said his burger was good... good quality beef.

The real deal-killer was the ambiance... a ridiculous screen door, which slams (I mean really slams) every time someone comes in or out. So about 20 times during our meal, there is a loud "smack" there to enhance your digestion. Was that supposed to be "authentic" or something (it was too cold to be needed to keep out flies).

The music was also horrid... 5 year old rap (I was told) and new wave hits from the 80s. Maybe that was supposed to attract hipsters (and there were a couple of them there, I suppose). The last thing I want to hear during dinner is "slamming beats". I thought the atmosphere in general was a little stiff, although I can't explain it exactly (maybe it was just my nerves, from the screen door). For a "comfort food" restaurant, I didn't find it comfortable to be there.

The food was decent but somewhat expensive for what you'd get -- not terribly so, but our meal with a lemonade, a coffee and a brownie was over 40 dollars with tip. I pride myself on being able to eat very very well, when paying that much for dinner. The real problem is that I will never want sit down inside that dining room again. I love real authentic greasy spoons and funky joints, but not when I'm paying premium prices for bad atmosphere and just decent/average food.

Jun 15, 2008
K2000 in Outer Boroughs

Mexican Around the Graham Ave Williamsburg Stop

Kiosco Piaxtla is very good. They seem to close early (8 or 9 pm). The chicken molé I had there was maybe the best I'ver ever had... definitely home made. I was with two other people who are very picky about Mexican food (if it's not authentic, they'll gripe) and they were both happy with their food (although I can't remember their orders).

There's also a 24 hour place on Grand street, just east of Graham... a Mexican bakery in front with a full service restaurant in the back. It's close to the Graham/Grand intersection, a few steps away from the McDonalds. That place is worth a try -- I don't remember the name. See if they have the pork ribs available if you go. It's more like a funky diner atmosphere (whereas Kiosco Piaxtla is a little bit nicer inside).

Jan 03, 2008
K2000 in Outer Boroughs

What to order at Popeye's? [split from a discussion on the Boston board]

Spicy chicken (I like the white meat, their wings are big and breasts are my favorite). For sides, try them all... dirty rice, red beans and rice, mashed potato, cole slaw (I forget what else they have).

I usually get a three piece combination, spicy, white meat.

Popeyes is my favorite junk food.

Jan 03, 2008
K2000 in Chains