Ngam: Bold and With Love
Ngam is the Thai word for beautiful. It is also derived from the name of the chef and owner, Ngamprom “Hong” Thaimee. Hong is a perfect living example of someone who’s pursuing her dream in life. She has been a model and television host, has held a corporate career in a major pharmaceutical company, traveled the world, and has cooked in the kitchens of celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten.
As a result of her dream of serving as an ambassador of Thai food and culture, Ngam was born. This warm, welcoming East Village restaurant has become a popular neighborhood spot. The setting is reminiscent of Thailand, with an urban feel. There is an open kitchen by the entrance and a long communal table in the middle of the room. On the wall is a quote from Julia Child, “Cooking is like love; it should be entered into with abandon or not at all.”
That’s Hong to a tee. With radiant eyes and a warm smile, she told me, “I want to do something that I know best, which is authentic Thai cuisine with a twist and with love.” Hong is usually the first one to greet guests.
Influenced by her grandmother’s cooking and the Thai practice of using fresh ingredients, Hong creates dishes with bold and exciting flavors. Everything is made in-house, including all sauces and condiments.
Unusual and Traditional Dishes
The menu has many sections and can be a bit overwhelming, but one will find unusual dishes such as Thai Taco ($10) with roti wrap, crispy pork belly with spicy Thai basil sauce, which I was tempted to try. I opted to start with the rich, hearty, and pleasing Tom Kha soup with king oyster mushrooms and galangal ($10).
I loved the two salads we ordered. They came with many different textures and flavors, with each ingredient complementing and enhancing the others.
Mango and crab salad. (Courtesy of Ngam)
The Mango and Crab Salad ($16) is made the traditional way, by pounding the mango in a mortar to absorb the flavors of all the other ingredients, including lime, chili, toasted coconut, and cashew nuts. The equally colorful Pomelo Salad ($10) is made with chunks of meaty pomelo, tamarind and chili dressing, lemongrass, and peanuts.
Pomelo salad. (Courtesy of Ngam)
Pad Thai has always been a favorite of mine. There were two interesting types in addition to the traditional one, in zucchini and papaya variations. We chose the zucchini Pad Thai ($14), made with long strands of zucchini that replace the usual rice noodles.
The highlight of the meal was the “Ghang Kiaw Wan” green curry ($14) with Thai long chilies and Thai basil and eggplant, a beautiful medley of flavors and textures with a gentle heat. It’s a fabulous combination that goes very well with a side dish of coconut rice.
The goat cheese and coconut Cheesecake ($8) is ever so slightly sweet.
The drinks also take their inspiration from Thailand. There are lemongrass, ginger, krachai, galangal, and spearmint sodas made in-house. Cocktails include a Tom Yum-tini, which takes the components of the classic spicy and sour Thai soup—lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, chili, and lime juice—mixed with soju and served in a glass rimmed with Thai spices and salt. The Snow White blends soju with lychee, fresh mint, and lime juice.
Brunch guests can try a Spicy Thai Bloody Mary or Pomegranate Chili Bellini.
For those who want to try their hand at Thai cooking, cooking classes are held Saturdays.
99 Third Ave.
Monday–Friday 12–4 p.m.
Sunday–Thursday 5–11 p.m.
Friday and Saturday 5 p.m.–midnight
Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m.–4 p.m.