Sookk came to my attention a month or two ago, when I noticed that eGullet’s Fat Guy had pronounced it the best Thai restaurant in the city—better than most people’s favorite, SriPraPhai in Woodside, Queens. A guy in the Eater comments had the same opinion—but so far, they’re the only ones.
I shy away from proclaiming the “Best…” anything, even in dining genres where I believe I have sampled all or most of the plausible candidates. So I would never make such a claim about Thai food, which I have only a few times a year.
Based on my experience, limited though it may be, I thought that Sookk was above average, and certainly worth a visit. if you don’t mind a trip to 103rd & Broadway. According to my twitter feed, the Columbia students love this place, and I can see why. The prix fixe lunch is just $7. Our dinner for two was just $60, and that included a bottle of sparkling wine that might have been $60 all by itself in some restaurants. Certainly, in terms of value per dollar, it’s hard to beat this place.
But I found the food too mild. Several dishes carried the warning that they came with the extra-spicy special house sauce. We were cautioned to add it sparingly, as they would not be returnable if we went too far. After the appetizer failed to register, I unloaded all of the available sauce into the entrée, and still couldn’t find much heat to speak of.
Having said that, the food was carefully prepared, attractively presented, and mostly enjoyable. I certainly would not hesitate to return. I just find it hard to believe that it’s the city’s best.
The Assorted Golden Fritters ($7; above left) was our favorite dish, with an assortment of crispy chicken, shrimp dumplings, shitake spring rolls, blanketed shrimps, and sesame tofu. There wasn’t the slightest hint of grease, and a sweet chili sauce supplied just the right amount of heat. Even the tofu—and I am not a tofu guy—was wonderful.
A so-called Fiery Thai Beef Tartare ($5; above right) wasn’t very fiery at all. It’s hard to tell from the photo (which I shot after I’d spoiled the kitchen’s careful plating), but there’s a black rice cake underneath that heaping pile of seasoned beef. It’s actually a witty combination, as the rice cake somewhat resembled a hamburger patty—thus, the dish was reversing the usual order of the ingredients. For five bucks, the beef was obviously not aged prime, but I cannot fault it in a five-dollar dish.
Much of the menu consists proteins, to which you add your choice of accompaniments. Duck in Green Curry ($14; above left) was insipid and forgettable.
Thai Paella ($15; above right) was on a separately printed list, alleged to be the “weekly specials,” although the sheet was so dog-eared it could have dated from the Bush Administration. An abundant helping of rice was slightly on the greasy side; finding the seafood (shrimp, scallops, mussels) required a small fishing expedition. The secret sauce, as I mentioned, didn’t add much. Perhaps they ought to leave Paella to the Spanish.
The small space is inexpensively but attractively decorated in multi-colored fabrics. Tables are close together, but when families enter with strollers, the staff make room. They were about 80 percent full on a Saturday evening: we arrived without a reservation and were seated immediately. Service was a bit slow, but we were in no hurry and didn’t mind.
If I sound a bit negative, perhaps it is only because we came in with high expectations. With the various combinations of proteins and broths, there are probably a hundred different dishes here, of which we sampled only a few. (I am fully prepared for someone to write in the comments, “You ordered wrong.”) Still, this should not take away from Sookk’s many charms. If you are looking for better-than-average neighborhood Thai cuisine, you’ll enjoy Sookk; we certainly did.
Sookk (2686 Broadway between 102nd & 103rd Streets, Upper West Side)