Serious Eats: New York
Date Night: Reserve Thai Wine Bar
Reserve bills itself as the city's only Thai wine bar. More than fifteen wines are served by the glass, all meant to "compliment or challenge" the Thai flavors. While dishes might be familiar from your regular go-to place, overall Reserve doesn't want to be your standard Thai takeout joint.
Our meal began with wee versions of the already small small plates: a cup of tom yum with a vegetable dumpling and a cup of tom kar with a spring roll. Reserve is big on specials. There's lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, ladies night, $3 glasses of wine, 50% off cocktails during Happy Hour, so on and so forth. Cake loudly followed Band of Horses, which loudly followed Radiohead.
Creamy tom kar mixed coconut milk with chicken, cilantro, and mushrooms. It paired well with a rioja, the wine's bitterness cutting through the soup's smoothness. The less said about the spring roll, topped with sticky orange glaze, the better. Just pretend it's not there, as we did. Stuffed with microscopically chopped carrots and mushrooms, each bite of the vegetable dumpling had a gentle give. Nevertheless, the true champ of that plate was, again, the multilayered soup. Where was the spice hiding in the clear broth? Split green chilies floated by, giving some clue.
The small side of somthum (a chilled salad made from papaya shreds, tomatoes, and a chili vinaigrette) tempered the grilled marinated pork in the moo yang somthum ($10). We poured on the jim jaew, a sauce made from oodles of dried chiles. Like a car, we revved up, then down-shifted with the somthum on sticky rice. It was a good ride.
Choices included tofu, vegetable, beef, and duck, but we opted for chicken and shrimp to go with the pad ped ($10). An infusion of makrud lime made this dish, cutting its sweetness and elevating it with acid. This dish and the soups showed the kitchen at its best, guiding and directing flavors as artists do with paint.
Written on the mirror in Reserve's bathroom is the following motto: "Life need not be perfect to be wonderful." And so it is with food and movies and dates. So much depends on the two people sharing the meal, so much depends on what you talk about or how much you enjoy one another's company. With its small but interesting twist on the neighborhood Thai restaurant, Reserve is best for: a slightly skewed date.