Uncle Boons, New York
Firstly, the photos are dreadful.
We went early on Sunday evening, congratulating ourselves for arriving so soon after Uncle Boons opened that we were able to be seated without a wait. The basement is Dark though. So gloomy it quickly banished memories of the hot summer sun outside. Perhaps this is why we didn't have to wait. It was hard enough to see our food clearly, let alone photograph it without flash. Thankfully, having totally over-ordered so that we could try as many dishes as possible I was able to spend yesterday morning mulling over the contents of our takeout boxes in daylight.
I had been excited when I first read through the menu. It is another one of those intriguing mash ups of Southeast Asian cusine meets America, with plenty of Thai names and not so Thai sounding ingredients and combinations.
As is often the case with such boundary breaking cooking, some dishes worked and others didn't. Moreover while they were fun and could be tasty I felt it a shame that most suffered from an over generous hand with the sugar. The lean towards sweet tasting food seems to be unavoidable here in the States. Perhaps I should start saying I am 'sugar intolerant' to see if chefs are able to accommodate this as well as they manage to deal with the gluten, dairy and other intolerances that seem to abound in this city.
Grilled marinated baby octopus with green chilli nam phrik. These had been pre-cooked before being given a final quick char, which was a shame. The meat of such young, tender cephalopods couldn't really stand up to double cooking and while I had hoped for bouncy beasts with smoky, charred tentacles these instead lost heat quickly after being served, becoming cold and unappetisingly soft from overcooking.
Whiskey and chilli glazed pig's ears, dusted with cumin and coriander powder. These had the soft chew of having been slowly braised before being crisped in a deep fryer.
Green mango salad with cubes of rather incongruous ripe avocado, chewy shards of dried squid and dried shrimp, plenty of peanuts and red onion. Overall the salad was too sweet for my taste and lacked the chilli heat and clean, sharp vinegar tang I hope to find in authentic Thai dressings. I also couldn't work out why occasional mouthfuls tasted of toothpaste! This was not because of the mint leaves, it was another flavour entirely.
Beautifully deep fried sweetbreads with light, creamy interiors. Served with a lovely salad of crispy rice noodles, fried egg, dried shrimp, bean sprouts, red onion and a few more peanuts than was really necessary. Again sadly let down by an overly sweet tamarind dressing but otherwise tasty.
Snails in green curry with fried garlic, served with roti. This was very good, although its always hard for any snail dish to take on its garlic butter and parsley cousin and win.
A panko crumbed, braised rabbit leg that was crisp, then delicate and yielding, served in a mild tom yum style broth with red veined mustard leaves and shelled broad beans. I thought I spied sungiku leaves too but couldn't be sure. These aromatic chrysanthemum leaves are a new favourite at home. The beans struck me as a little out of place but otherwise the dish was thoroughly enjoyable.
The winner of the evening - a lovely fatty pork jowl, charred and sliced across the grain. It came topped with asparagus, pink pickled watermelon radish, mint and basil, shot through with garlic, both sweet roasted cloves and nutty fried slices. A pokey lemon and bird's eye chilli nam phrik was a excellent dipping sauce for the unctuous pieces of smoky pork.
7 Spring Street
New York, NY 10012
Tel: 646 370-6650