244 W 48th St (Broadway & 8th Ave)
City: New York, NY
Phone: (212) 582-3392
Site: Visit the restaurant site
2nd Cuisine: Family Friendly
Area: West 40s
The original Pongsri Thai launched in 1972 in Chinatown and has provided goodies for the likes of Thailand's Queen Sirikit and other Thai notables. Since then, it has spawned several sibs including one in the theater district that's a terrific place to enjoy a pre-or post-theater bite whether for lunch or dinner.
I've heard snarks about the service but, in the many times I've eaten here, have never encountered anything but pleasantness and efficiency. It's not warm and fuzzy which is often a plus. You're here for the food.
Deciding what to eat is a bit of a hassle because the menu is so voluminous. Entire sections are devoted to mussel preparations ($15.95) and those with lobster ($27.95) to say nothing of fish, vegetarian, steak and something called "Golden Breast" aka sliced chicken breast that's been battered and sautéed. All these options come with a zillion choices as to preparation and sauce. Anything marked with a chili pepper to denote spicy can be modified to suit your tolerance--just ask when you order. Medium (or mild for the truly spice intolerant ) does it nicely for most. There are plenty of dishes that are clearly not spicy at all.
The papaya salad, a Thai mainstay, features julienned papaya and carrots with tomatoes, watercress sprigs and lettuce and is enough for two not-starving eaters to split as an appetizer. The crispy duck salad is good as well if your taste runs to duck with pineapple. Any Thai restaurant worth it's, um, salt, (an ingredient not heavily employed in this cuisine), should make a good Tom Yon Goong and Pongsri Thai's shines, flavorful with lemongrass and lime as part of the shrimpy flavor. Both the spring and summer rolls come off decently--spring, here called "Siam," is fried while summer includes shrimp, cilantro, carrot, mint and noodles all wrapped in a rice paper roll and served with peanut sauce.
Curry lovers can indulge starting with a choice of chicken, pork, beef, shrimp, calamari or scallops (chicken $13.95; scallops $18.95, the rest somewhere in between) with red, green, "jungle" and several other styles on offer. I've never had their Prik Khing that combines "crispy" pork with green beans, lime-leaf and special chili paste but the people next to me seemed delighted. They were also enjoying Ba-Mee Ruam Pak, an egg noodle dish with mixed vegetables and sesame oil.
Beverages run to the usual lemonade, sparkling water, sodas and such but if you want alcohol there is a full bar with beers, wines and mixed drinks. For dessert, the best bet is the home-made ice cream with the fresh mango a stand-out.
Pongstri Thai opens for lunch at 11:30 AM and closes at 11:30 at night. Take-out, delivery and major credit cards are part of the package. The décor is bland, the lights dimmish and the rest rooms up a tricky flight of stairs. Prices overall are reasonable, especially for the area; service is fairly quick which helps if you've neglected to allow enough time pre-show. Mostly, it's one of the semi-hidden, gems of the area.
Review By: Mari Gold