Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The squishy, the spicy, and the bland at Land Thai Kitchen

On a chilly Monday night, AV and I were driving down the West side when I suggested we stop at Land Thai Kitchen for dinner. Land had been a favorite of AV's-- we considered going there for dinner last weekend, but the no-reservations policy left us facing an undesirable wait time. This seemed perfect: we'd park right nearby, and on a weekday night at around 7PM, the wait couldn't be too long.

We were right--though the tiny dining room seemed full, we were seated right away. One table switch later (as is often the case in NYC, tiny = uncomfortable, especially when a cold draft envelops the room aggressively every time the door opens), we were ready to order.

First up: a shared order of the vegetable dumplings. Described as "shitake mushroom, sweet corn, tofu, spinach, peanut, garlic chip, and sesame soy," these appeared as four kelly green blobs on the plate next to a dish of dipping sauce. The one word I can use to describe these dumplings is squishy. In fact, I couldn't stop saying that word while we were eating them, which probably detracted from the overall dumpling experience. But I couldn't help it, I swear, as these dumplings were the most squishy food I'd ever ingested. The wrapper had no texture, and the filling was sticky and gummy and... well... squishy. It felt like a food you'd gum rather than chew if you had no teeth, or even if you did have teeth, which is what we did. The flavor itself was powerfully peanutty, which was weird because there were no visible or detectable peanuts in the green parcels. Overall consensus was that if the chef had pan-fried the dumplings, thereby giving them a bit of crunchy texture, they would have been improved immeasurably.


For an entree, AV got the wok basil with beef. It's listed as very spicy on the menu, but he specifically requested mild, which our server seemed to acknowledge. What emerged, though, was an inferno on a plate. AV noted that the portion sizes used to be much bigger (Land is under new management, and according to AV previously the plate would have been completely full rather than what you see below). But that may have been a blessing in disguise, because after shoveling the food down as fast as he could, a masterful technique to avoid tasting and/or searing one's tongue, AV had to take a bit of quality time in the bathroom to reorient (reattach?) his taste buds. And again: this was MILD. Let that be a lesson to you, folks. Exactly what lesson, I can't say. But a lesson nonetheless.


My own choice was the wok vegetable medley with tofu. This melange included napa cabbage, baby corn, snow peas, broccoli, cauliflower, baby corn, and tomato, along with a few big chunks of lightly fried tofu, all in a ginger-garlic sauce. Ironically, perhaps, this dish could have used some of the wok basil and beef's spice. While there wasn't anything necessarily wrong with the dish, it just lacked flavor, or punch-- I guess it was a bit bland. It also seemed like something I could easily make in my own kitchen, and do, for that matter. Nonetheless, it was satisfying and ample, especially with the large dish of jasmine rice that came alongside (free with all the entrees).


All in all, I guess I'd say Land was a bit disappointing, especially compared to how much AV used to like it. While there wasn't anything terrible about the food, we didn't have anything that we'd go out of our way to have again, and seeing as how Land is very much out of the way for both of us, I wouldn't necessarily go back. With the additional fact that the dining room is small, cramped, and largely uncomfortable, I'll give Land two Offset Spatulas and counsel you to stick with your neighborhood Thai place.

Land Thai Kitchen
450 Amsterdam, between 81st and 82nd Streets

No comments: