Aura Thai Makes One of the Best Soups in Midtown
It’s been a duck kind of a week. Yesterday I wrote about the Thursday duck pancake special at Yushi… and then subconsciously (or consciously) I felt a sudden urge to try the duck soup from Aura Thai. I’ve seen the soups at Aura mentioned a bunch of times on Midtown Lunch (most notably by Lunch’er “Nantini”) but the place is out of bounds (9th Ave. btw. 35+36th) and there are plenty of good soups in Midtown. We don’t need to be hiking out to 9th Ave. just for soup.
Now that I’ve tried the soup, though, I think hiking out to 9th Ave. is exactly what we all need to be doing (especially now that’s it starting to get colder.)
Aura Thai’s menu has all the American Thai restaurant standards, plus some other weird Korean and Vietnamese additions. Not usually a good sign, but the soup came recommended… so I pretty ignored the rest of the menu at this self proclaimed “fusion” spot, and took a look at the soups! The soup lunch specials menu is very similar to a lot of the cheap Chinese places in NYC, like Mee Noodle. For $7-9 you get a choice of noodles (Cantonese, chow fun, or egg), choice of two broths (regular or duck), and a choice of meat (roast pork, roast chicken, or roast duck). Oh, and then there is the mater of dumplings or no dumplings. Even though I had heard the duck soup was the way to go, I ordered both (you know, for “research” purposes.)
I’m not sure how it works when you order at the restaurant, but when you get takeout the noodles and veggies come separate from the soup. The regular broth w/ noodles, roast pork, and dumplings ($7.95) looked deceptively average. But it ended up having this sweetness that distinguishes it from the average Chinese food soup. For meat, I went with the roast pork- which didn’t really seem all that roasted. (At least not in the traditional Chinese sense, which is what I expected.) It just seemed like sliced pork that had been boiled in the soup. Adequate, but nothing to get excited about. Technically you get your choice of noodles, but apparently egg noodles are the standard. The lady who took my order really seemed to be steering me in that direction, and I’m kind of glad she did. The egg noodles were nice and al dente, despite being super thin- and matched well with the broth. The little fried dumplings were kind of mushy by the time we got to them, but whatever. You won’t find this guy getting mad at any extra fried stuff in his soup.
Like I said, the regular broth was good… but the duck broth was out of control. Whenever anybody recommends anything, I’m skeptical. Not because I don’t trust people, but because once something is recommended it automatically elevates it. Your high expectations mean that the recommended item has to perform far better than it did on the day your friend randomly stumbled onto the dish. Maybe they were just super surprised to find a decent soup in a Thai restaurant that also serves bulgogi.
Well, there is no worries about this soup. The duck broth with roasted duck (and noodles and wontons) is one freaking good soup. The dark broth is surprisingly sweet as well (sweeter than the regular broth) with a really interesting spice mixture that probably includes 5 spice or cardamom or something. (I ain’t so good with the palate… all I know is it tasted freaking good.) The roast duck loses its crispiness from being the soup, and it’s definitely fatty (as roast duck tends to be), but it was far superior to the pork (and you know if I’m saying that, it’s got to be true.) I probably should have tried one of the other noodles, but damn if that lady wasn’t persuasive. She really seemed to want me to stick with those egg noodles. The only down side of the soup is it is super rich (naturally), and that combined with the sweetness might make it tough to finish (especially if you take it to go, and it ends up turning lukewarm halfway through.) That being said, if you eat in the restaurant and get the bowl of soup while it’s piping hot I can’t imagine it lasting long enough for you to get to that point. This is a damn fine bowl of soup.
Finally, the lunch special comes with a free appetizer… although you don’t get to choose. Each day is a different app that you get automatically. On Thursdays it’s chicken curry puffs. A two (small) biter, it’s not enough food to really consider it an app, but it tasted good, and it was free. And the soups are big enough, and delicious enough, and filling enough that it’s worth it even with the appetizer. Just pretend like I didn’t recommend it. You’ll probably like it better that way…
THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- Cold weather + duck broth + roasted duck + dumplings = heaven!
- I love soup that has a bit of sweetness
- So rich, and fatty and delicious!
- I don’t mind eating Chinese style soup from a Thai restaurant
THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- This isn’t Thai food!
- The duck is too fatty
- The free appetizer is more like free amuse
- Too sweet! I could barely finish it…
Aura Thai, 462 Ninth Avenue (btw. 35+36th), 212-971-8530