Tuesday, September 4, 2007


GrasGuy doesn't get French Thai.

It's not that I don't like the concept. Who wouldn't? Two of the world's great cuisines mixing to create a culinary atom bomb combining the creamy, buttery fatty goodness of traditional French cooking with the powerful, sinus-dissipating spices of traditional Thai, it's hard to imagine a better idea.

No, GrasGuy doesn't get French Thai, because he can't get it, because it pretty much doesn't exist.

Yes, there are "French Thai" restaurants aplenty, but take a look at the menus. More often than not they're straight-up Thai with a Steak au Poivre or Bouillabaisse thrown in for good measure. Maybe the chef even uses a little French technique on his Pad Krapow, but true fusion? Rarely. And that's a shame.

Sure, I'm making a broad generalization, and many of you will disagree. But it's not often I've seen baguettes in Bangkok (so to speak), and if you think about it, you probably haven't either.

So how did Foie Gras end up on the menu of one of my favorite Thai restaurants in New York?

Thai food in Manhattan is very much like Chinese food in Europe. Terrible, and unauthentic to a fault. So I'm not surprised when people tell me they don't like Thai food. Saddened, but not surprised. I'm equally upset when someone tells me they love Thai food, and then tell me where they had it. More often than not its called Thai Somethingorother 3.

Thankfully there are a few exceptions. Places like Kittichai, Pooket, and Land, where you can experience all the wonderful flavors Thai cuisine has to offer, rather than the greasy, bland trash most restaurants dumb down for us Farang.

One restaurant that manages to straddle the line between accessibility and taste is a very lively spot called Highline. No, this isn't your Thai neighbor's grandmother's food, but it's a lot better than Bangkok Thisandthat 5 in Midtown, and just as cheap - a miracle, given the swank ultramodern decor of it's three-level layout, not to mention it's location in the high-priced Meatpacking District. While the menu includes many Thai classics like Basil Beef and Green Curry Chicken, it also takes some chances. Pad Thai Spring Rolls is a signature dish you'll likely find nowhere else, but not as surprising as the recently added Foie Gras Puffs.

Filled with Curried Foie Gras and served with a Smoked Soy Reduction flavored with Tamarind, a bite of one of these flaky babies will knock your proverbial socks off but leave you asking - where's the Foie Gras? There's a familiar flavor in there somewhere, I think, but doused in all that curry it could be anything. After dissecting the insides of one of these, I discovered very small pieces of what I assumed was ground Foie Gras and just decided to leave it at that and bask in the whole of this outstanding $8 appetizer. Then, just as I was about to finish, I poked around one last time and, sure enough, came up with a forkful-sized hunk of Foie Gras. Biting into it I was instantly transported to a far away place from my past - my mother's kitchen, as she handed me a fried piece of the liver that comes in that little bag of giblets you get with an oven stuffer roaster.

Yea, it was that bad. But what do you expect for $8.

I know, it's my own fault. I should've just enjoyed the dish for what it was, but being GrasGuy I just had to go deeper, trying to unwrap the dish and find something clever to say about what I found. As it turns out I'll always remember that last, disappointing bite, rather than the first, which made me say "wow!" Lesson learned.

Would I order it again? Sure would. In fact, I've never had a bad dish at Highline. Their version of red snapper with sweet Thai chili sauce is one of the best in town, and the noodle dishes are spot on. And while I could live without the trendy bed/tables on the upper level, there's nothing like drinking a ginger mojito poolside with a disco ball in your face - head downstairs and you'll know what I'm talking about.

Korp Koon Krap, Highline, Korp Koon Krap.

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