A Far-Ranging Thai Menu That Started With a Slurp

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Soothar, in the East Village, began as a simple noodle shop. The offerings then grew to reflect multiple regions.

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It was a hot afternoon in August when I first arrived Soothr, and I was wishing I had come several months earlier. Thai noodle soup is the restaurant’s specialty, and while the summers in New York City aren’t kind to anyone, they’re especially harsh if you love noodle soup. When the city dips into temperatures in the 90s, the thought of a tart bowl of soup triggers an internal battle of anticipation and dread that will make you feel like Alex after his repairs in “A Clockwork Orange.” can.

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Of course, summers in Thailand are no picnic. The country has a pretty simple solution to the hot soup problem in August: pouring the broth into a separate bowl, where you can cool off while eating everything else. This style is called, oxymoronically, dry noodle soup. It’s very much on the menu at Soother, helping to take the dread out of my first bowl of soup that afternoon and tempt me for many more meals.

One particular dry noodle soup I ate was a variation on Tom Yum. Sour and deeply fragrant, Tom Yum with Shrimp is a takeout staple that’s pretty much the same across the United States. Thailand, however, offers dozens of variations on the theme, including one from the central province of Sukothai that features salty pink commas of dried shrimp. This is Suther’s version.

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You can have it as a regular “wet” soup, of course, in which case the rice noodles, sliced ​​roasted pork and springy pieces of fish cake will be almost submerged in a pork broth that’s filled with fresh lime. Tart with and loaded with lemongrass and makrut lime leaf. If you get it as a dry soup, however, the citrus juice and a paste of aromatics make a powerful sauce for noodles. When the broth, served in a cup, is cold enough to drink, it is rich in flavor from pork and complicated by lime or other seasonings. Alternating pungent, tangy noodles with a sip of hot broth is a mesmerizing experience in any season.

Soothar (pronounced suds; it rhymes with mood, sort of) opened in the summer of 2020, and for several months it was only available with takeout and outdoor tables. By the time I arrived about a year later, the dining room was in full swing. In fact, except for a brief break from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. while the staff catches their breath, it’s packed almost any time of day, as evidenced by the back patio and two heads from the front on East 13th Street. is spread.

The interior manages a clean combination of modern New York industrial (exposed rafters and ducts, a steel accordion gate between the tables) with traces of an earlier era (flags of neon, a rotary pay phone). The jade-gray walls have a soft luster, like that of gleaming pottery. The effect is suggestive and elusive; It is as if you have been taken to a place and time that you cannot properly identify.

You can feel the same way about the crumpled, placemat-sized menu of cocktails, each named after a gem. At first glance it appears to have been saved from Sino-Polynesian restaurants found on the outskirts of many American cities in the 1960s and ’70s under names such as the Double Dragon Inn. When you look closely, you see tamarind syrup, elderflower liqueur and other ingredients that betray the hand of a contemporary Manhattan bartender. (That hand belongs to one of the owners, Suppa Banklouis.)

Another participant, Chidensi Wathnawongwat, said Suther was first conceived as a simple shop selling a few varieties of Thai noodles. The third owner, Kittia Mokarat, grew up in Sukothai with Ms. Bankloi, and wanted to serve Tom Yum the way he learned to eat it at home. Mr. Watthanavongwat, for his part, had a meatball recipe borrowed from his family’s sausage-making business in northeastern Thailand.

After handing over this stripped-down concept to chef, Nate Lingwan, the menu began to grow. Ms. Lingwan, who cooks at Fish Cheeks in NoHo, and sailor thai Sydney, in Australia, now presides over a three-page menu, much of which is devoted to things other than noodles.

Her steamed jib dumplings are unusually fine, the shumai wrapper stuffed with a pork and shrimp filling that’s crispy with water chestnuts. Fried chicken, flavored with white pepper and lots of garlic, in the mild and unique style of Hat Yai City.

Ms. Lingwan centers her beef salad, or yum nuer, around remarkably delicious braised beef; It’s not as loaded with fresh hot chiles as some other versions, but the use of husked cherries for their sweet-tart charge is inspired.

A main course called si-krong pad ped consists of pork ribs braised to tenderness, fried for crunch and tossed in a smoldering red-chile paste for flavor.

Kung curry, or shrimp curry, can be found along Yowarat Road, the central artery of Bangkok’s Chinese community. An attractive juiciness of creamy yellow curry is stirred into eggs and thickened, as in egg drizzle soup. The dish, which infuses Thai flavors into old school Chinatown cooking, is more than the sum of its parts.

No matter how far you follow the side streets and back alleys of Soother’s menu, you’ll probably be taken back to Noodles.

A rich beef broth consists of translucent rice vermicelli, which is brightened with heaps of chopped basil and garnished with a piece of braised beef, along with a few meatballs that make up the Wathanvongwat way.

They are rice vermicelli again in nam tok, a creamy, spicy soup thickened with pig’s blood. Once little more than a rumor in New York, blood soups are now more readily found, much to the delight of those who appreciate their almost velvety texture, which calms aromatic spices.

Roast Duck in a puddle of thick, dark soy gravy and steamed Gai Lan’s pink, crisp-edged oval with wide, flattened egg noodles; It’s somewhere in between a dry soup and a full soup soup.

But summer isn’t over yet, and I’m still feeling the allure of a true dry soup like Ba Mi Pu. According to the restaurant, this is another dish with credit to Chinese cooking; Egg noodles are topped with roasted pork and moistened with dark soy, sticky and thick. The name means crab noodles, though, and the very good crab slaw is the heart of the dish, and although I still don’t understand exactly what makes the combination of crab meat with roasted pork and black soy so good. Yes, I can always come back for another cup when the weather turns cold.

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