With the promise of consistent crowds and Thai-Vietnamese cuisine, Malai Kitchen has been on my “to-eat” list practically since the day they opened their doors. I can’t say that I typically like frequenting any restaurant in West Village, not so much because of the quality of food but because I vehemently despise Dallas douchebags and restaurants like Mico and Taco Diner seem to be the breeding ground for all things Ed Hardy.
I ventured to Malai Kitchen for lunch and the patio was poppin’ off. Naturally, I requested a table inside because the last thing I want to do is listen to other people’s issues while I shove my face. Our table was promptly blessed with a bowl of poop some sort of eggplant dip accompanied by sticky rice. Although it may be the most unappetizing looking item I have ever eaten, the dip was pretty good and a nice twist on the cliché bread basket. Seeing as it is getting cold (and by cold I mean that the temperatures have dropped below 75) I was really craving some delicious soup this week during lunch. I lived in Thailand and sucked up Tom Kha Gai out of dirty street-vendor bowls like it was going out of style so let’s just say that I like this soup to taste authentic. It seems as though coconut soup would be hard to fuck up seeing as it’s just mushrooms, chicken and some other shit mixed with warm coconut milk so naturally I was going to start with that. The Tom Kha Gai was pretty solid seeing as we are in Texas but not the most visually appealing. When the bowl was first placed in front of me I was confused as to why chili-oil was dripped on the surface. Going off of taste alone, this tom kha was the closest thing to being a legitimate cousin of this traditional Thai soup. Watching the parade of entrees leave the kitchen from my table I decided that only ordering soup would just be rude. Believe it or not – I do have manners, sometimes. I finally settled on the Pad See Ew or Sweet Chicken and Brocoli as my entrée which was a really difficult decision because Malai’s menu is written so well it makes everything sound delicious. After a quasi-disappointing experience with the poop and soup, I was a little nervous about the rest of the meal but I put my game face like a true food-lover. When my Pad See Ew arrived I was pleasantly surprised. Again, not the most visually appealing thing in the world but then again, how creative can one get with a pile of noodles? Delicate flat noodles cooked in sweet soy were mixed with perfectly tender brocoli, chicken and a surprising addition – cherry tomatoes. This concoction was absolutely delicious! With a slow start, the Pad See Ew immediately changed my opinion of Malai Kitchen. Now, I like to consider myself as a fairly intelligent person therefore I always make sure to dine with at least one other person so that I can enjoy their company try their food. In this case the other dish that was ordered were the Grilled Tiger Prawns. Promised as “coconut marinated Texas gulf shrimp, citrus street salad and pesto cilantro rice” it sounded like it would have great potential, right? Not so much. First of all, I don’t even want to stick my foot in the Texas gulf let alone eat something that calls that underwater wasteland home. The dish itself looked absolutely beautiful but that is where the positive aspects stopped. Not only did the shrimp practically disintegrate when it was touched (not in a good way), but it tasted nothing like coconut and everything like charred up asshole. The tasteless pesto cilantro rice didn’t do much to support this dish’s cause either. The most impressive aspect of the grilled tiger prawns was the citrus street salad, with mixed greens and chunks of plump grapefruit. Alas, $12 for a small salad with some citrus chunks on top wouldn’t exactly have me running back to Malai.
Prior to venturing over to Malai Kitchen I had heard wonders about the magical Coconut Cream Pie that has slowly earned a reputation around town for being one of the best desserts in the city. Even though dessert normally destroys my life and puts me in a sugar induced sleep coma, I figured what the hell – what did I have to do for the rest of the day anyway? Except go back to work. Once the plate arrived to the table it was evident that we had made a very, very wise decision. An appropriately sized slice of deliciousness was right in front of my eyes. Sweet coconut cream topped with meringue and fresh mango slices all stacked on a delicate shredded coconut macaroon crust solidified the whispers of being awesome. Even though the flavors of the coconut cream pie are strong in taste, Malai did a fantastic job at making the dessert light. In fact, light enough that I should probably order it every time I go back.
Mixed reviews sum up my experience at Malai Kitchen. From mediocre to mind-blowing I suggest you go check out Malai for yourself…as long as the Pad See Ew and Coconut Cream Pie are included!