Kittichai. (Photo credit: Kenneth Chen)
60 Thompson St.
Kittichai is stylish, fashionable, and located inside a hip boutique hotel—all attributes that, in the great Ethnic Restaurant Equation, tend to exist in inverse proportion to the quality of the food. Somehow, though, despite the model-doormen and hostess-waifs, despite the reflecting pool and the exotic cocktails, despite the fact that it’s not in Queens, even, Kittichai triumphs. Credit chef Ian Chalermkittichai, a Bangkok import whose unrestrained Thai flavors explode on contact. Galangal-and-coconut soup sizzles and soothes. Chocolate baby-back ribs are irresistibly fatty and meltingly meaty in all the right places. Curries captivate, from the green (braised short rib) to the red (tender duck with grapes and tomatoes) to the murky but marvelous chili-ginger monkfish and hearts of palm. Factor in with-it servers who’ve managed to memorize and rattle off every ingredient, no matter how arcane, and even the most skeptical curry maven, the kind who seldom eats Thai outside his Formica-tabled, fluorescent-lit outer-borough habitat, will be willing to make an exception.