Where: 117 W 10th St, New York, NY 10011
Crowd: Wine-sipping ladies out for girls’ night
Vibe: Elevated Thai cooking in homey atmosphere
Standout dish: Koi neur (steak tartare Thai style)
It feels like I’ve been making a lot of trips to this corner of the West Village recently. Mah-Ze-Dahr Bakery (excellent pastries), Quality Eats (casual steakhouse) and Horchata (tacos and margs) are all within a two-block radius — add Pinto Garden and its Thomas Keller-mentored chef to the mix and well, I definitely see more dining here in my future.
It’s freezing and dark out, but the back garden — with its white-washed brick walls, potted plants and skylight roof — still manages to exude pure coziness and warmth. Mental note: Come back when they start daytime brunch.
Pinto Garden’s lovely decor comes courtesy of general manager Koby Songyoo, who stops by to take us through the menu. It’s nothing like the pages and pages you see at a typical takeout Thai joint. Instead, the carefully-curated offerings from chef Teerawong ‘Yo’ Nanthavatsiri draw inspiration from all over Thailand, plus the local Greenmarket. That, of course, equates to higher prices. No $10 lunch combos here — the cost of meals is similar to other modern Thai restaurants like Uncle Boons and Fish Cheeks.
Koby recommends some signature dishes that we add to our order, along with a few more things that catch our eye. A complimentary crudite platter arrives, only this is not your average boring plate of vegetables. In keeping with the garden theme, the mix of multi-colored cauliflower, radish chips and lettuce come in a wooden plant pot along with a side of housemade green chile relish.
But that’s not all. My drink gets here next and the set-up feels more like a fancy cocktail than a Thai iced tea. It’s completely deconstructed with a glass of tea-infused iced cubes, the tea itself, simple syrup and cream. I pour and tweak the drink until it’s perfectly to my liking.
Appetizers are here and we’re ready to dig in. But before we can, our server prepares the Koi Neur, or steak tartare Thai style, tableside. On top of the cubed filet mignon teeters a raw quail egg, which he turns over and expertly mixes into the meat. Each bite is zesty, spicy and tangy thanks to the mint, kaffir and lime dressing. The spicy chicken wings are not as memorable — they have a nice kick, but feel a little soggy.
Carbs follow. We doubled down on the crab with the fried rice and curry pasta. The rice arrives in another Instagram-worthy vessel... a whole coconut! It’s not just kitsch though — there’s a legit amount of jumbo lump in there. There’s also crab in the Num Ya Pu pasta, a twist on a Southern Thai curry that Chef Yo pairs with housemade squid ink pasta. The curry, which is made in house, packs a punch of flavor, but the noodles, which are served in a mound, get stuck together and chewy pretty quickly.
As I glance around, I notice that a few other tables had the same idea we did — a gal’s date. With its laidback atmosphere (we never felt rushed) and noise levels that actually work for conversation, Pinto Garden is an ideal place to kick back with some wine and girl talk.
Our final entree, the slow-cooked baby back ribs land at our table. We’re getting stuffed, but manage to polish off a rib each and like any good rib, the meal falls right off.
In the mood for something sweet, we order the more intriguing of the two desserts: Chocolate cake topped with creme brulee. I’m interested to see how exactly the kitchen pulls that off and it’s exactly as described, a piece of (unfortunately, dry) chocolate cake with a warm pudding sitting on it. It’s not the best ending to an otherwise good meal.
Time for a nightcap. The Happiest Hour is right next door and in this cold, I can’t think of a better way to wrap up the night than with a tropical cocktail. The Pineapple Express, concocted from sage, honey, lime and choice of cachaca, rum or tequila, has my name on it.
Disclaimer: VIVA was a guest of Pinto Garden, however opinions and comments made by the writer remain unbiased and independent.
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