Happily, Thai spots are starting to serve Thai food the way it’s meant to be (not sickly sweet). Here, the city’s most authentic dishes.
RED CURRY WITH LYCHEES
Exposed brick and tablecloths elevate Mengrai Gourmet Thai into first-date territory. So does a dish like this: a hollowed-out pineapple is loaded with chunks of fruit, soft bites of chicken and plump whole lychee in a rich, medium-spicy red coconut curry sauce topped with a chiffonade of fresh lime leaves. $18.
A family-run spot with just six (usually crowded) tables, Sukhothai makes this go-to classic the way it should be: chewy rice noodles, tofu, egg, shrimp, chicken, crisp bean sprouts, sharp chives, peanuts, fresh lime juice and the crucial sweet-and-sour tang of tamarind. Guaranteed ketchup-free. $10.
Mong-Kut Thai Gold’s papaya salad spurs images of bustling Bangkok street life. It’s cooling, pungent and addictive: crisp shreds of green fruit are tossed with long beans and chunks of tomato, then dressed with fish sauce, lemon juice and peanuts. It’s properly incendiary, with plenty of fresh chilies for a post-meal buzz. $8.
THAI ISLAMIC NOODLES
Insiders know to request this Penang curry, seafood and chicken dish at Salad King (it’s not on the menu, but the kitchen is willing to oblige). Sweeter than pad Thai, it brings a comforting tangle of flavoursome rice noodles. $11.