Flatiron Lunch: Rhong Tiam Express is Now Open
Last month’s Flatiron news post mentioned that the East Village’s Michelin-starred Thai restaurant, Rhong Tiam was opening an express branch in the Flatiron/Gramercy area. As of last week, it’s here and serving up plenty of Midtown Lunch-ranged options. With just a week under their belts, there’s a lot they still need to work out. So, today we’re going to take a first look instead of a full on +/-.
Check it out after the jump.
The space is small, well put together. The main area when you walk in faces the counter and leaves plenty of space for ordering and waiting. Off to the right, there’s seating that’s somewhat cramped, but comfortable enough.
My first experience there had more than a few issues, but nothing unexpected for a place that just opened. Ordering the food left a little confusion. The menu is busy and can lead to some difficulties. I may or may not have gotten a couple bucks knocked off of my meal because neither I nor the guy behind the counter could tell if the price listed under Lunch Specials applied to all the specials below or just the top one. It’s to his credit that he went ahead and gave me the better price, but one of these days they’ll probably need to figure that out.
Like I had mentioned in that initial news post, they’ve got all your standard Thai dishes… noodles, curries and salads, but I was pretty excited about their “roti wraps”. Above is the Coconut Chicken Lemongrass wrap, which, while not the Crispy Basil Pork I ordered, was good enough that I was glad to have had it. Now, when I think of a wrap or a roti, I tend to imagine a fat burrito-style belly buster, so I was a little concerned when I saw how small this was. I was a little more surprised when I unwrapped it. Lighter, fluffier and sweeter than the Trinidadian roti I grew up with, I’m always happy to come across this sort of flatbread. Regular readers might notice that it looks remarkably like a Kati Roll, a Kathi Roll, or maybe a Frankie.
The bread in these kati roll-like wraps are very much like the ones at Biryani cart, chewy and light. Its the filling that stands apart from the various other Indian-style rolls I’ve seen. Where other rolls have a mixture that seems very much like curry, but aren’t exactly, the Thai versions have a full, spicy curry sauce, in this case mixed with coconut milk, presumably slightly different, depending on the other fillings.
It’s not really soup season, but the special I got came with my choice of a soup, so I went with it. I got a coconut soup with chicken and vegetables that, though hot, was very soothing given all the heat from the curry in my wrap. The veggies were crisp, the coconut milk sweet and the chicken chunks thick.
I never got a chance to go to the original location in the West Village (closed) or the converted East Village location (also closed) so I can’t really compare the food, but people always had great things to say about the place, so I will definitely be returning regularly to see how well it grows into itself.
Rhong Tiam Express, 31 East 21st Street (btw. Park+Broadway)