F, J, M, Z at Delancey St.-Essex St.
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Considering how much Andy Ricker has single-handedly done to rehabilitate the sullied reputation of pad Thai, that hapless Siamese-menu cliché, it seems a tad churlish to say that of the three principal dishes on offer at his subterranean noodle nook, it’s our least favorite. This is not, you understand, to disparage the quality of his rendition, which, like everything the chef-restaurateur does, aspires to utmost authenticity, and does indeed excel in its perfectly calibrated, intentionally understated contrast of flavor and texture—the slick nest of pork-fat-fried rice noodles mingled with nuggets of dried shrimp, pressed tofu, and preserved radish, among other toothsome things. According to his forthcoming cookbook, Pok Pok (Ten Speed Press), Ricker considers the iconic dish rich but minimalist, as subtle as it is satisfying, and we defer to his expert opinion. For something a bit brasher and rough around the edges, though, we recommend the kuaytiaw khua kai, a sizzling toss of chicken, egg, and cuttlefish with wide rice noodles that crisp and char on the fire, or the hoi thawt, a delectably greasy broken crêpe embedded with saffron-colored mussels and egg. The pad Thai might be edifying, but these two are imperative.