Thai food to Soothr your heart and soul
As the leaves yellow, get cozy with New York City’s most authentic Thai street food.
Nov 7, 2022
New York City has officially made its transition to fall, with the yellowing leaves of Washington Square Park and the endless cycle of daytime drizzle. Now is the time to enjoy scarves, warm coffee and steamy cuisine. While looking for a spot to enjoy a delicious, hearty meal one Friday, I walked into Soothr — a Thai noodle bar located in the East Village and a four-minute walking distance from Union Square.
After opening back in 2020 as a small outdoor-and-takeout restaurant, Soothr has expanded substantially since. It’s moved from offering strictly noodles to incorporating all kinds of Thai street food imaginable, from curry to Tom Yum soup. Making it to Condé Nast Traveler’s list of best new restaurants and receiving Michelin recognition, Soothr is no doubt one of the most popular restaurants downtown Manhattan has to offer.
Pronounced as “Sood,” in Thai, Soothr translates to recipe — a word reflective of its mission. It is the perfect place for authentic, delectable Thai cuisine. The restaurant’s founders, a group of friends that are from various parts of Thailand, created Soothr with the aim of cultivating a dining experience complete with homey and down-to-earth food and vibes.
Soothr offers patrons and staff — like Ace, one of the long-serving hosts — a connection to home and a sense of family.
“[Staff] can order Thai food all the time and it makes you feel like you’re eating at home, you know? Yeah, it’s just like family,” Ace said. “When you go to work, you don’t feel like you go to work. You go to see your friends … We share everything just like friends and family.”
As you step into Soothr and pick up the menu, beware — there is something about the ambiance of the restaurant that prompts a little more imagination than usual as you choose your culinary delights. The interior design mixes wooden panels and elements of traditional Thai decor with New York’s industrial charm. It blends floral wallpaper and warm lantern lighting with ducts and exposed beams. In particular, the bar is quite stunning. The self-lit jade bar table is always bustling with motion as bartenders are busy fashioning one of Soothr’s 9 gems, the restaurant’s signature cocktails.
My two favorite appetizers are the Moo Dang Puff and the Had Yai chicken. Moo Dang — which translates to red pork in Thai — refers to a type of barbequed pork glazed organically red from the cooking process, with strong notes of spice and honey. The puffs, which are small Yaowarat style pastries stuffed full of caramelized onions and roasted pork, resemble small dumplings. The pockets are fried golden, and the filling bursts in your mouth as you bite into them. Shallots and radishes served on the side help mediate the richness of the meat.
On the other hand, Had Yai chicken is a larger portion. With four pieces of herb-marinated Southern Thai style fried chicken served with sweet chili sauce, the dish provides you with the luxury of taking big bites. Ace says it’s a less greasy alternative to the traditional American fried chicken, lacking the oily, flour coating.
“The most popular appetizer probably gonna be fried chicken Had Yai,” Ace said. “It’s very unique, it’s not like crumb-rolled chicken or fried chicken like KFC here, it’s marinated chicken and fried with crispy shallot on top and a spicy plum on the side. It’s literally 100% Thai fried chicken wings, so good.”
Definitely try the homemade chili sauce on the side — a traditional accompaniment of Thai fried goods — its sour-sweetness brings the dish to life.
For entrees, Koong Karee, or shrimp curry, is Sooth’s signature dish and evokes the taste of seafood from the Bangkok streets. Similar to the Moo Dang Puff, the Thai delicacy takes its name from the central street in Bangkok’s Chinatown, influenced by Chinese culinary traditions and prepared Yaowarat-style.
“It’s signature here, we got the Michelin Plate from that dish, it’s very popular because there is no Thai place that makes the same Koong Karee as Soothr,” Ace said. “The creamy texture, it crumbles, the scrambled egg is baked and it’s so creamy and it’s so tasty and the shrimp so juicy — it’s so good. And especially when you eat it with white rice, it’s very, very good. You can’t go wrong with Koong Karee.”
The Duck Noodles, another dish that will be perfect for approaching colder weather, look like something retained from Soothr’s original noodle menu: caramelized duck and dry egg noodles, partnered with gravy and steamed greens. The honeyed duck breast is a satisfying combination of fatty and lean meat that only adds flavor to the gravy-soaked noodles.
After the entree and rounds of extra noodles, are you still craving more? If so, try the Pandan Custard. If you’re 21 or over, enjoy one of Soothr’s signature cocktails. The most popular are Fah-Kram — Ace’s Favorite — and Ploychompu, two vodka-based drinks flavored with juice, puree and zest.
“Soothr’s a place for fun,” Ace said. “The food is so authentic it makes me think I’m eating at home, and the staff is my family. Thai people, we like good food served family-style. Soothr serves the Bangkok street food of New York – come try it and you would want to return.”
Contact Linsey Liao at [email protected]