Sun-Thu, noon-11pm; Fri-Sat, noon-11:30pm
1 at 23rd St.
American Express, MasterCard, Visa
14th St. to 30th St, Broadway to Eleventh Ave.
Red banquettes, leafy green palms, multi-colored tabletops, and a giant goddess mural on one wall aptly conjure a hip café in Thailand's tropics. But an authentic in-name-only menu is so sloppily executed that many dishes would be nearly unrecognizable to anyone who has actually been to the vicinity. Sweet, crispy rice noodles make for a flavorful and gratis start, but that's where the fun finishes. The oily coating of beggar's pouches embezzle élan from the spicy shrimp and chicken filling; limp, curiously chewy tofu skin ensures that getting to the chicken curry center of "firecrackers" is maddeningly frustrating; and a glass noodle salad shatters under a heavy dose of fish sauce. The cuisine's trademark clean seasoning and bold spicing remain elusive in the giant, muddled entrées, too. A clump of broad noodles with chicken are tossed with basil leaves that have long lost their aroma and the lackadaisical red curry smothering jumbo shrimp can't hide the crustaceans' age. There are a few benign choices for vegetarians, though, like grilled tofu steak with mushroom, lime leaf, and curry, but otherwise, this Chelsea corner is no day at the beach.