Larb Ubol Brings Fiery Isan Thai Food to Midtown West NYC!
Feel like setting your mouth on fire, residents of Glenwood Crystal Green and Emerald Green? Well you, and anyone else who appreciates the incendiary Isan cuisine from northern Thailand, are in luck, because the spanking-new Larb Ubol is definitely bringing the heat to Ninth Avenue and 37th Street.
With a kitchen run by Chef Ratchanee Sumpatboon, who most recently seared the lips of East Villagers at the acclaimed Zabb Elee, and a welcome focus on all components of each dish–the food here isn't only about chilies–Larb Ubol should immediately land high on your list of neighborhood take-out or pop-in spots.
Experiencing Heat From Hot to Blazing
I went to Larb Ubol for an early supper on an uncomfortably hot-and-muggy day, and proceeded to increase my internal temperature about a thousand degrees above that. You can tell Chef Sumpatboon how spicy you want things, using a heat-meter scale from one to five, with "five" being "for crazy masochists only". I pushed myself on my first two dishes, going for a full "four". Fearing my brain might actually catch on fire if I continued in this manner, I decided to chill out a little for my final offering, asking to Sumpatboon ease back to a "three", which was still plenty spicy, by the way, just not quite so distractingly blazing.
The Chef's Best on the Menu
But beyond "OMG HOT", the dishes on the Larn Ubol menu are also skillfully constructed, with a pleasing blend of textures and a surprising depth to the flavor. For example, the Crispy Pork in my Larb ("larb" is basically "meat salad") was also sweet, appropriately fatty, and chewy, which went nicely with the crunchy cucumber and cabbage slices hiding behind that mountain of pig. My Papaya Salad could have used an upgrade in its tomatoes, but the shellfish–whole shrimp, big chunks of squid, and de-shelled mussels–all held their own, flavor-wise, adding brine to the sweet/spicy palette. And over the Chef's Specials section of the Larb Ubol menu, my Duck Kra Prao was one of the best, most generous $15 duck dishes I've had in years (there's at least a half a bird here), the meat juicy, the skin crisp, the piles of green peppercorn and long bean playing well against the gamey, fatty fowl. This was my "Level Three" dish on the heat meter, and I think I'll stick to that degree throughout next time.
More Information: Larb Ubol
Larb Ubol is located on Ninth Avenue between 37th and 36th Streets, and is open Sunday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., and on Friday and Saturday from 11:30 to 11:30 at night. The dining room is totally tacky and kind of weirdly shaped. All the tables run along the wall, which leaved a big empty space in the front room, and strangely narrow one in the back. But it's all comfortable and fine, and will probably conduct much of its business via delivery anyway. For more information, visit the Larb Ubol website!