Thursday, December 3, 2009

A quick stop into Obao

'Twas the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and as I found myself in the city rather than at home in Massachusetts as was customary (long story, but I actually had a nice low-key Thanksgiving in NYC), BL and I took the opportunity to have our (semi-) monthly catch-up dinner. We trekked through the abandoned wastelands of Midtown East to try Obao, Michael Huynh's newest outpost. It's gotten a lot of buzz but mixed reviews, so I was curious to try it out.

Like the rest of Midtown East, the place was pretty much deserted. As I was led through the empty noodle bar into the pretty, serene dining room in the back, I spotted one other three-person party having dinner in a booth; they vacated shortly after I sat down, so BL and I had the place to ourselves until we paid the check, at which point another small group came in to take our place. No matter; especially when it was this quiet, the dining room was a nice place to be, full of handsome dark woods and anchored by two long communal tables down the center.

Our server was friendly but seemed still to be getting her footing-- in fact, the whole staff seemed overwhelmingly tentative. It took a good five minutes for our server to return to the table and inform BL that his order of a birch beer would go unfulfilled: they had run out. (A huge run on birch beer earlier in the day? Who knows?) However, we didn't mind at all-- we chatted as we waited for our much-anticipated dishes to emerge.

BL went with the Singapore Noodles, which were thin noodles served along with Chinese sausage, shrimp, crispy lard, and chives. The noodles were served in an appealing little metal wok-like dish, which I liked. BL approved of the dish, and when prompted gave it a three-spatula designation.


My choice was a no-brainer: the papaya salad. This was an artfully disheveled pile of deliciousness, although the taste was unlike any papaya salad I'd had. There was some spice-- pickled plum powder, perhaps?-- that dominated the flavor profile. The shredded coconut was an interesting touch but didn't add much in the way of taste. The crispy shallot, however, added both taste and texture. Yum.

Offbeat papaya salad

And that was it. A quick trip to the bathroom revealed an unmarked door and no light (literally, the socket had no light bulb). An attempt to pay with credit card revealed that they're cash only. So the final verdict? Worth a stop if you're in the neighborhood, but I wouldn't trek across the city to go-- it's a three Offset Spatula spot that's overshadowed by all the great Thai options much closer to home.

222 E. 53rd Street, between 2nd and 3rd Avenues

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