Pukk is a vegetarian Thai spot in the East Village that's a favorite on Yelp. The long, narrow space makes quite an impression: it's hyper-modern, with floor-to-ceiling white tiles and see-through plastic chairs. "I feel like I'm in a pool," my dining companion commented.
With that kind of décor, I wasn't sure what to expect from the food. I started with the Square Noodle Roll ($4), a pocket of thin, chewy pasta stuffed with minced smoked tofu, tender mushrooms, and crunchy radish, served in a pool of sweet chili sauce and showered with crispy fried garlic. The dish was good, not great; although the flavors and textures were in balance, it's just not memorable. So while I wouldn't go out of my way to recommend it, I wouldn't hate on it, either.
Not so with the Stuffed Tofu ($5), which displayed all the worst possible qualities about fried tofu. This was an underseasoned, bland hunk of bean curd that, although fried, wasn't warm or crispy, but just soggy and greasy. Not particularly stuffed, it did cradle a little pile of chopped cucumber and carrot, and was draped overall with a too-sweet peanut sauce. Pass.
Things started looking up when the noodle dishes arrived. Although not at all authentically Thai, that quality tends to work in Pukk's favor, at least when it came to noodles: there was an experimentation with Asian flavorings here that, overall, was successful. The first example of this came in the form of the so-called Thai Suki ($10, pictured at top), thin, springy glass noodles with a distinctly sweet-hot Korean flavor profile. The noodles were tossed with bok choy, carrots, and, incongruously, broccoli florets (why do so many neighborhood Thai restaurants insist on adding broccoli florets to everything?) and interspersed with lacy bits of scrambled egg. This one was a winner.
Pukk went and upped the ante with its Spicy Watercress Noodle ($10), a truly unique dish of super-garlicky wide flat noodles boasting soft, peppery tangles of wilted watercress and big crumbly chunks of milky firm tofu. The well seasoned, well cooked noodles were kept sending me back for more, and there wasn't a trace of them left on the plate by meal's end.
Pukk's menu lists a handful of other noodle dishes, and from what I tasted last night I'll wager they're darned good. So skip the appetizers here, folks, and head straight for that noodle section.