55 Bond Street
New York, NY 10012
Contact | 212.677.2223
We were suffering from a bit of Bangkok withdrawal, which led us to one of the latest Thai hot spots in the city: Fish Cheeks. At 5 p.m. on a Wednesday, the restaurant was just cranking into motion, but if you can, it’s a great time to go to take in the restaurant’s lively decor in the light. Plus it means happy hour dollar oysters.
There was an immediate stamp of approval when we saw a Thai family of 10 ordering their meal as if they were regulars.
The first thing first-timers will likely notice is that NO pad thai is served here. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a proclamation against the bounty of Thai diners that have sprouted up across Manhattan, making pad thai with spring roll lunch specials a mainstay for New Yorkers.
Indeed, Fish Cheeks takes a crack at authenticity with its “no pad thai zone” and raw, street-style entrees. Instead, you’ll find pad cha, an intentionally unrefined stir fry of seafood and vegetables that punches your taste buds with peppercorn clusters and wild ginger. The flavor is loud and unapologetic. The plate is a wonderfully slapdash serving of fresh calamari, shrimp, string beans, producing a vivid aroma that more than compensates for its lack of visual appeal.
And as you’ll read in most reviews, the crab curry is the must-get. It arrives like a bowl of soup. I was worried for a split second, before healthy lumps of crab meat emerged with every dunk of the spoon. The curry in this dish is also quite a punch, making a side of rice necessary. The coconut in the curry is mouthwatering. We ended up taking the leftover sauce home to dress our eggs the next morning.
For a truer reflection of Thai food, and even a momentary escape, Fish Cheeks is the place that will transport you much further in a single dish than all the pad thai, lemongrass, panang curry lunch specials combined. It’s untreated from American commercialization, taking street food, producing it in a New York kitchen, and serving it in all it unglamorized glory.