Thai Villa: A Collection of Rare Finds
Hello! Winter is coming and I'm not just trying to make a reference to Game of Thrones. That being said, I thought it would be a good idea to stay warm with one of my favorite Thai restaurants in NYC: Thai Villa. Thai cuisine is characterized by its wild concoctions of alluring scents, energetic combinations, and spicy twists.
Thai Villa stands above the rest for two main reasons. First, the food feels very authentic. I'm not a professional Thai food expert. But, there's something captivating about a menu that extends past the usual Pad Thai or Green Curry dishes. Thai Villa specializes in rare and secret recipes, originally prepared for Thai royalty, as shown in their "Privileged" menu.
Secondly, the interior is gorgeous. It's really cool. Just past the hostess' desk, you'll notice a calming wall fountain adorned with a the face of a Buddhist figure. Thai Villa's entrance leads you straight past their fully stocked bar. You'll find some interesting Asian-inspired cocktails here. The main dining area is spacious with a ton of seats. It's well-lit thanks to the ceiling's ornate, gold-laden fixtures.
Read more below if you’re interested in finding out more about what we ate. Overall, I'm definitely coming back to Thai Villa to try more of those "Privileged" dishes.
To start, Thai Villa provides some complimentary Taro and Sweet Potato Chips (see above). These aren't bad but they're tasty and unique. For those of you that might not know, Taro is a type of plant. Its corms, or roots, are starchy underground treats. These corms look like round yams but the nodes, or rings, wrap horizontally around the corm rather than vertically from the base to the tip of the corm. The corm itself is light purple in color and is sweet but nutty in flavor.
Several countries throughout Southeast and East Asia have their own version of Hot and Sour Soup. To clarify, the Chinese have a soup called Hot and Sour Soup but this is usually meat-based then flavored with red peppers and vinegar. In the Philippines, we have Sinigang, which is a savory and sour soup that sources its flavor from tamarind.
To share, we got the Spicy Tom Yum Chicken Wings. Tom Yum is Thailand's answer to Hot and Sour Soup. But, in this case, Thai Villa uses it to flavor their wings. Tom Yum's unique flavors are derived from a combination of Lemon Grass, Kaffir Lime Leaves, Fish Sauce, Chili, and Galangal. The Galangal is a root and looks like ginger. But, Galangal has a strong citrus taste and piney aroma. That being said, these wings are addicting. The meat was also nicely cooked and not dry at all!
Next, we got the Royal Pad Thai (see above). Other Pad Thai dishes in the city are way too wet and oily. This one was perfect. The noodles were wrapped in an egg net, which looked like a perforated crepe. Whenever I have Pad Thai in Thailand or back home, there's always a thin layer of egg on top. This was one of the first times I've seen it in NYC.
For about $18, the Royal Pad Thai is topped with huge pieces of prawn. The Pad Thai is also made with Shallots, Chive Leaves, Bean Curd, Dried Shrimp, and PEANUTS. It's not a real Pad Thai without peanuts. Don't forget to squeeze some lime over your Pad Thai!
Then, we also got the Chilean Sea Bass. It arrived at our table, aromatic as can be. And, as if things couldn't get any better, the waitress poured some warm Coconut Bisque over the dish. The Sea Bass was pan roasted and you could smell it approaching from 10 feet away.
This dish is topped with Asparagus and Bunashimeji mushrooms, which are buttery in flavor and slightly crunchy in texture. For $28, it might seem a bit pricey but it's totally worth it. You'll find this dish on Thai Villa's Chef's Signature menu.
Lastly, we had the Gai Yang. Whenever we see it on a menu, Steph and I always order this to see how it compares to my mom's Chicken Gai Yang.
Gai Yang is a common street food enjoyed throughout Thailand. Thai Villa's was good, albeit not as good as my mom's for very biased reasons. Their Gai Yang is made by grilling marinated, de-boned cornish hen. I don't think traditional Gai Yang is distinguished by whether you use regular chicken or cornish hen. But, Thai Villa uses cornish hen so the meat is a bit more tender and less sharp in flavor.
The traditional Gai Yang marinade is usually made with some mixture of Lemongrass, Garlic, Lime Juice, Chili, Fish Sauce, and/or Coconut Milk.
Thai Villa's cornish hen was a bit yellow in color so I'm guessing they added Turmeric? I'm not sure. The Gai Yang also came with a Spicy Tamarind Sauce and some Coconut Sticky rice!