Flatiron Lunch: Taan Thai Cuisine
Now that Downtown has its very own section of the site, what are we going to post on Fridays at 10am? Answer… how about a new column devoted to those lunches just south of the ML boundaries. Every week we’ll post about a lunch in Murray Hill south, Gramercy, Flatiron, and everything in between… or as we’ll call it from now on: Flatiron Lunch.
Thai food restaurants are few and far between in Midtown South. Up until a week or so ago, the only option I knew of near my office was Lemongrass Grill (on 34th btw. Lex+3rd). Every several months I end up there with co-workers and we all get the exact same dish we always get and then bathe it in the various sauces that are on hand and hope for something more interesting than usual (it rarely succeeds.)
Then, the other day, I spotted Taan Thai Cuisine. Actually, I spotted the signs for JoeyThai, presumably the previous restaurant in this spot. Apparently, no one thought it necessary to bother changing signs- but I’m fine with that because the food is a vast improvement over the other Thai options in the area.
Deep and dark with an oddly modern design, Taan seems cooler just walking in the door due to the lack of fake bamboo everywhere. The big sign in the window announcing the 7.95 and 8.95 Lunch Specials certainly don’t hurt.
The specials offer a small starter and a choice of proteins enveloped in different combinations of noodles, rices or sauces. Above is the grilled pork tossed with broad Thai “homestyle” noodles. Mixed in and buried beneath the noodles and meat were chunks of iceberg lettuce and bean sprouts. The crunch of the veggies boosted the entire meal by adding a different texture.
I rarely order broad noodles due to their sometimes gummy texture, but this time I went for it just to see what Taan could do. I found that I actually really enjoyed them, especially after adding their hot chili sauce. It’s sweet and spicy and brings some depth to the dish.
For a buck more, you’ve got options like choosing steak or squid as your protein with the main special or one of many other choices like the roast chicken with coconut rice. A quarter chicken is chopped and served atop a bed of intensely flavored rice embedded with veggies and coconut chunks. The chicken is tender and juicy and, while it lacks a crisped skin, it’s wonderful to taste.
If there is any disappointment in the meals I’ve had at Taan, it would have to be in the skimpy portions of the appetizers. The spring rolls were fine, about what I expected, but the chicken nuggets (yup, they have chicken nuggets as an app!) were ridiculously minuscule. I don’t care the circumstances, two chicken nuggets should never be served to anyone alone as a course. Even as a starter or snack, two nuggets is just enough to annoy me into wondering why there aren’t enough nuggets to pique my appetite.
The menu is extensive and has many of the Thai standbys you’ll find at larger chains and lesser restaurants everywhere. Now that I know it is so close to work, I expect to spend some quality time going through all the options. My next visit must involve red or penang curry and more chunks of grilled pork like I had with the noodles.
The + (What somebody who likes this place will say)
- Finally some good Thai food!
- The coconut rice has chunks of coconut.
- Great chili sauce available on request.
The – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place will say)
- Wait, only two nuggets? wtf?
- Hot sauce needed to enliven the meals.
- The sign will confuse anyone who’s actually looking for this place instead of randomly coming across it.
- I’d rather travel a little, and hit up 9th Ave. for my Thai food fix
Taan Thai Cuisine, 17 East 31st Street (btw. Mad+5th), 212.213.3773.