Topaz Thai Restaurant

I love Thai food, don’t you? It’s so nice to live in New York and have a panoply of Thai restaurants to choose from. Last night, MDP and I went to Topaz, an old favorite located past Carnegie Hall on 56th Street.

topaz curry puffs

curry puffs

Just take a few steps down from street level and you enter a world of delicious food. Topaz seats about 40 people, give or take a few, and is often bustling with guests, many of whom seem to be tourists. But don’t mistake Topaz for a tourist trap, no. This isn’t like Guy Fieri’s new restaurant or “the world’s largest Applebee’s” over on 50th and 7th.

No, Topaz is a real treat. I called ahead for a reservation, and upon arriving, was greeted as “Miss Nicole” and was promptly seated.

We ordered the curry puffs for an appetizer, and though they took a long time to get to us, they were well worth the wait. The crispy, flaky exterior belied a perfectly spiced, soft inside. They were on the small side–much smaller than Yum Yum’s, for example, but Topaz offered three (to Yum Yum’s two), so all was well.

For an entree, I opted for the Drunken Noodles, possibly my favorite Thai dish. Rife with julienned carrots, Chinese broccoli and flat, wide noodles that perfectly absorb the dish’s juices, Drunken Noodles warned to be on the spicy side (indicated by a small chili pepper beside its name on the menu). I ordered it anyway–and paid the price this morning–but it was quite delicious. I can’t tell you if this is Topaz’s best noodle dish, as it’s the only one I ever order because it’s just that good.

topaz drunken noodles

drunken noodles

MDP got the Lovely in the Golden Nest, which is a rather ornate way of saying “chicken with cashew nuts on a bed of crispy Chinese noodles.” The noodles form the eponymous nest, and the cashew chicken lays atop them. This was on the sweet side, and tinged with a flavor of celery (which I don’t care for in this dish, but it’s always there. Such is life). MDP must have enjoyed it since he didn’t leave anything–not even a fragment of a Chinese noodle–to spare.

All in all, Topaz is quite good, especially for its neighborhood filled with crappy diners and fast food fare.

Topaz

127 West 56th Street between 6th and 7th avenues

Midtown West, New York

Take the N/Q/R to 57th-7th and walk south one block, then west on 56th Street.

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Yum Yum Queens, Sunnyside

You may have heard of Yum Yum. There’s about 25 in Hell’s Kitchen. Maybe you’ve seen them.

Yum Yum Queens, a distant relative of the aforementioned, serves up tasty Thai at cheap prices. With no frills, the restaurant delivers an inexpensive lunch special and a filling prix fixe dinner. If you’re in the neighborhood at mealtime with a bunch of change in your pocket, this is the place to go.

Yum Yum Queens Fried Tofu

fried tofu

Last night, my dining partner and I ordered in. As an appetizer, we got the fried tofu. Cardboard-like and triangular, the fried tofu wasn’t exactly disappointing but not flavorful either. I mean, it’s tofu. What can you do with it? A special sauce accompanied the dish. We drizzled it all over the tofu, in hopes to make a more delectable offering. It helped slightly. Another appetizer we typically try is the curry puffs, which are small, empanada-like pastries filled with chicken and spices. They are quite good and I highly recommend them.

For an entree, I ordered the green curry with chicken. I’m fond of Yum Yum’s curries. I usually order the red curry, but fancied something spicier last night. It is chock full of bamboo shoots, green beans, and other vegetables, including something that resembled a type of eggplant. I was very satisfied with my dish.

Yum Yum Queens Pad Kie Mow

pad kie mow

My dining partner got the Pad Kie Mow with tofu, which was greasy and delicious. The tofu was tough, but had absorbed all the grease and juices oozing from the flat noodles. It was wonderful.

Don’t forget to try the Thai iced tea and coffee. They are expertly served at Yum Yum.

Overall, you get the bang for your buck at Yum Yum Queens. It’s not worth traveling to Sunnyside for this restaurant, but if you’re in the ‘hood, you definitely want to try this Thai.

Yum Yum Queens

43-01 Queens Boulevard (at the corner of 43rd Street)

Sunnyside, Queens

Take the 7 train to 40th street and walk three blocks. 

Anise Fusion, Sunnyside

According to the Sunnyside Post, Anise Fusion is an Indian/Chinese restaurant. I disagree. They have a number of Thai dishes on their menu and only a few hints of Indian (the mango lassi is the biggest giveaway). Regardless of their ethnic origins, their menu has too much going on and not enough flavor.

We decided to order from Anise Fusion as a function of Hurricane Irene. What restaurants would be open during the catastrophic event? We thought we’d try the new place in the face of the end of the world (as reported by the TV meteorologists).

anise fusion lollipop chicken

lollipop chicken

For appetizers, we opted for the lollipop chicken and chive pancake.

We ordered the lollipop chicken because we had been so fond of Tangra’s. There were four pieces, all of which were crisp and light on the meat, as they should be. Both my dining partner and I enjoyed them.  Anise Fusion definitely does the dish justice.

The chive pancake was a disappointment. Dark green and cut up into bite-size pieces, the pancake lacked flavor and was accompanied by a soy-like sauce.  I wouldn’t recommend it. Yum Yum Queens puts out a much better rendition.

My dining partner ordered tofu with cashew nut sauce, a Chinese delicacy. It lacked flavor and punch, though I liked the inclusion of pineapples in the dish.

anise fusion "red curry"

"red curry"

I got the red curry with chicken, a Thai specialty. I make red curry with tofu at home all the time and it comes out just fine–a thickened sauce with bamboo shoots, peas, and green beans. This is what I expected of Anise Fusion, at the very least. I was sorely disappointed. The red curry sauce was thin and flavorless, and there was an ample presence of bamboo shoots–an almost overwhelming presence–without anything else. I usually like to see some vegetables in my red curry. Anise Fusion didn’t deliver. I wouldn’t recommend ordering red curry from there–again, Yum Yum does a much better job with this dish.

If you’re looking for Indian food, try Saffron Gardens. If you want Thai, try Yum Yum. If you desire fusion, definitely go to Tangra, which is right around the corner from Anise Fusion. You can get take-out from all of these places (I’m almost certain). Don’t waste your time with Anise Fusion. The best part of my meal was the Thai iced tea that I ordered–but, honestly, who can screw that up?

Anise Fusion

4343 41st Street (between 43rd Avenue and Queens Boulevard)

Sunnyside, NY

Take the 7 to 40th Street and walk one block east.

Nodus: Noodles galore

Nodus is poised to revolutionize the Thai noodle experience–or so we’re led to believe. In the Sunnyside Post, the owner of Nodus explains that his restaurant offers a glimpse into Thai food beyond Pad Thai. “We want to focus on Thai noodles both broth and without broth,” he said. A novel approach…

Nodus, which is the Latin root for noodle, is squeezed between two forgettable stores and seats about 40 people. Its dark interior sets a certain mood that may impress some, but its food falls slightly short of expectations.

I ordered the Drunken Mama (charming name, for sure), which is a house take on Drunken Noodles with Asian angel hair (?) instead of the usual flat, wide noodles. I wish I had known about the angel hair; I would have stuck with the original Drunken Noodles, which happens to be my favorite Thai noodle dish.

nodus drunken mama

drunken mama

As you can see, the portion size isn’t generous. What you can’t see is that the noodles were too salty. I don’t want to judge Nodus harshly–they’ve only been open for three days. But! There’s definitely room for improvement here.

My dining partner ordered a big bowl of noodles with duck. His portion size seemed satisfactory and his food was delicious. I highly recommend the duck, but I’m not sold on the broth. (You can order the dish dry.)

big bowl of noodle

For dessert, we ordered the mango mousse cake, which was the only available option. It was light and airy, and quite delectable. I also had a Thai iced tea, made perfectly.

I might try Nodus again. Maybe I should stick with the standard Drunken Noodles dish I’m often inclined to order. Maybe they’ll offer larger portions down the road. I wouldn’t rule this place out, but, at the same time, it’s not as if Sunnyside needs another Thai restaurant. (We have Dee, Yum Yum, I Am Thai, Thai Malay, and Sripraphai in Woodside.)

Where are my hamburgers? Where are my cupcakes? I patiently await their arrival. Unlike Nodus, I believe hamburgers and cupcakes could truly spice up this neighborhood.