Is Puff Cha Worth the Out-of-Bounds Trek?
If you live by the old adage that variety is the spice of life, you can eat very well at Puff Cha, the newest addition to Hells Kitchen’s cluttered Thai food scene. The menu is one of the cheaper Thai menu’s that I’ve found in the area, and also strays mercifully away from the obvious pad thai’s and the like. Instead the menu gets its legs from a variety of both savory and sweet Thai puff pastries ($2.49 each or 3 for $6.79) as an eclectic lineup of noodle dishes and curries. An encyclopedia of cha (tea) as well as desserts round out the menu to make it not only an intriguing lunch spot, but also a destination for a sweet snack or high tea.
As you’ll see from our time honored highly
unscientific test (the old ML Metrocard scale), the puffs are roughly the size of a credit card. Each puff goes down in around 2-3 bites and are guaranteed to simultaneously leave shards of flaky dough on your lips and laud the culinary skills of whomever is responsible for these delicate pastries. Hungrier lunchers may well need more than 3 puffs for a fill-up, but the rest of the dishes are cheap enough to mix and match – perhaps a bowl of noodle soup with a sweet puff for dessert.
I found familiarity and comfort in the chicken curry puff (top left) – a flavor bullet of chicken, starchy taro, onion and curry powder. Also successful was the Thai BBQ Red Pork puff (bottom left), which danced a fine line between sweet, meat, and delicate. Less so was the mixed veggie puffs (top right) – I wished for more salt and sesame oil to season the mix of carrot, cabbage, and onion. On the other hand, I would certainly order the banana choco puffs (bottom right), which recalled an éclair in Thai puff pastry form.
As much as I enjoyed the puff pastries, I can’t quite recommend the roasted pork noodles ($8.95) in good conscience. The flavor was generally unfocused to be generous, and at times, flat out missing. The pork was roasted to desiccation, and desperately needed some fat and sauce to come to its rescue. Similarly the noodles are served plain, and meant to be dipped into a side of wan broth – both soup and noodle had little flavor to hold intrigue.
I can overlook such mis-execution for there are many glimmers of hope on the menu. Indeed the restaurant’s namesake alone may make it worth the out of bounds trek.
The + (What somebody who likes this would say)
- I love Thai curry puffs
- The menu has a ton of variety, and is generally a dollar or two cheaper than other Hells Kitchen Thai restaurants
- I consider myself to be a connoisseur of tea
The – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- It’s way out of bounds
- The noodle dishes could use some work
- I don’t know if I could make an entire lunch out of little pastries
Puff Cha, 457 50 St (Between 9th & 10th Ave); (646) 682-7768