Still Waiting for Dee Daa to Get Their Sh*t Together

I stumbled upon an advertisement in the Metro dated on the same day it was handed to me (Oct. 22) asking, “Have You Tried the New Dee Daa?” The ad had a full page spread of some sweet deals for a $5 entree or a $7 entree plus soup or salad (they call this a bundle). The fine print advertised that the deal expires on Halloween, October 31… so being the thrifty Luncher I am, I made my way to Dee Daa Balanced Thai (44th btw Lex+3rd) immediately. Early last year, Blondie gave them a shot just as it opened and really hoped they would work out the kinks. I was curious to see if they had.

I’ve gotta be honest with ya, Lunchers, even though Brian enjoyed a few dishes he sampled from there, Dee Daa still doesn’t have their shit together. My first impression when I walked in was good. The restaurant has a fun, ingredient-themed interior, and there were plenty of customers, but…

Strike one was when they didn’t honor my coupon because they said the cash register wouldn’t let them ring it up past noon (although the actual coupon said nothing of the sorts). It was about 1:00. They assured me I could come back another day, but I was already there and my lunch break clock was ticking, so it was now or never.

I ordered what I would’ve gotten on the $7 special, a red chicken curry and a papaya salad, and it ended up costing me nearly $11.25 with tax. Ouch.

Besides the pain of paying more than I had anticipated, waiting in line was equally unpleasant. Once you order, you go around the corner to an area crowded with customers both trying to fill up their drinks and get their food in the same ten square feet. This tiny area is heavily heated by woks just a few yards away in the kitchen. After more than ten minutes of waiting, perspiring, and eye-rolling when the folks got their food ahead of me who ordered after me, I was not a happy camper. I was even more unhappy when I saw how shallow the dishes were. ML portion fail.

Dee Daa’s “thing”, according to their website, is “using authentic Thai ingredients to perfectly balance the four basic flavors of sweet, spicy, salty and sour”. I think what I found out about myself today, is if Dee Daa is truly balanced, then I want to be imbalanced.

My main complaint is that it seemed too far tweaked away from authenticity for me to enjoy it. I regularly go to Sripraphai in Woodside, where the menu is cheap, extensive, and the closest to real Thai food I’ve found in the US. To be fair, this is Midtown, and I really shouldn’t be so harsh, but…

I ordered the red curry from the screen menu because it listed pumpkin and basil, two of my favorite ingredients. The item also sported a little pepper next to it indicating it was spicy! If you really like things spicy, I’ll warn you, I didn’t find it spicy at all (although people who aren’t used to a lot of heat might think so). There was a decent amount of chicken and it did balance well with amount of the nicely done carrots and underdone pumpkin. I must admit I often find starchy veg a tad underdone in Thai dishes, so I think the slight rigidity I experienced when tasting the pumpkin pieces was normal. The red curry dish had a lot of basil, but any freshness it might have had seemed to dissipate in the trek back to my office. There was a nice amount of sweet coconut-flavored sauce to soak up the rice, but the overall dish needed more salt and more chili.

The papaya salad was underwhelming at best, with too much droopy lettuce and not enough flavor. With long strips of carrots and papayas, there was an OK crunch, and I could taste the telltale tang I’m familiar with. But I couldn’t detect any fish sauce or shrimp flavor at all. There were two tiny chunks of mysterious fruit that added some sweet flavor. They might have been rambutan, but I’m not quite sure. I thought I tasted a tiny hint of spiciness although I saw no signs of chili peppers or flakes. There were five, yes, I counted just five whole peanuts, and they weren’t even chopped to distribute the flavor around the salad.

It saddens me to give such a poor review. I would like to think that perhaps it was just hard luck for me and a bad day for them. Or perhaps this is a great restaurant for people who have a sensitive palate and don’t enjoy very strong flavors. I would love to come back and try their chocolate covered fruit one day, but I fear the rest of the menu might not lure me back. Can anybody convince me otherwise? Has anyone had great experiences there? (Or if someone can make these coupons work before noon, I would recommend going, because a $5 entree or $7 entree plus side bundle would at least be a good deal.) The restaurant was crowded, I’m sure there must be some out there who are fans. Let us know either way and share your experiences with any of the dishes you’ve tried.

Dee Daa, 155 East 44th St, (646) 396-6500

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