Years ago Calvin Trillin wrote an essay called “Spaghetti Carbonara Day.” It’s a passionate and hilarious plea to have the classic Italian dish replace turkey as the main course on Thanksgiving. I’m not sure what he’d think of the spaghetti carbonara with bacon and basil that’s being served up by the bizarre East Village restaurant Kurve. I bet he’d run for the hills if he saw the above photo though. To borrow a phrase coined by Frank Bruni in his scathing goose-egg review of the joint, I guess that’s what spaghetti carbonara would like at "a nail salon on Venus."
As anyone who’s been following the blogs knows, chef/owner Andy Yang was quick to point out that Bruni was mistaken to say that Kurve is hopping on the carbonara bandwagon. Yang’s claim that spaghetti carbonara is quite popular in Thailand seems true based on a Google search that reveals it’s also served in Malaysia. When I ordered it as a late-night snack the waitress made sure to warn me about the spice level.
Here’s what Kurve’s carbonara looks like in better light. Food photography 101 says to avoid using a flash whenever possible, but all bets are off when you’re in a darkened room where the color scheme consists of various shades of purple and pink. Standing in for the traditional black pepper is a double whammy of fresh Thai chilies and dried Thai chilies. Bacon, and lots of it, replaces guanciale. The combination of crunchy bacon with hot peppers brings to mind an incredibly spicy barbecued potato chip. This is the kind of dish that leaves your mouth humming with a pleasant heat long after you’ve finished the last bite.
It is it traditional? Not really, but the combination of Thai basil, chilies, garlic, bacon, and cream tossed with pasta works quite well. I like to think of it as a drunk food version of spaghetti carbonara, not that that’s a bad thing. At $15 a plate, it’s not cheap, but then again nothing’s cheap at at Kurve. Too bad they’re not open on Thanksgiving. If you’re craving Kurve’s carbonara you might want to grab some tonight. Think of it as carbo loading for tomorrow’s eating marathon.