Last week, I was invited to the (fairly) recently opened Thai restaurant Somtum Der, in the East Village. I had heard good things about it but hadn’t yet had the chance to try it out – so I was happy have the opportunity to do so now! They recently released a new menu item called the Tum Dong Der – a platter with papaya salad in the middle and surrounded by tapas-style Thai accoutrements. I was excited to not only try this new offering but also check out the rest of the menu. For my eating buddy that evening, I invited a friend whose family is of Thai origin and has some knowledge of the restaurant business – we couldn’t wait to get started.
The first thing we noticed was the decor, which was trendy and tasteful, with lots of fresh ingredients and supplies at the bar:
It was then time to get down to (eating) business. We first checked out the two varieties of the new papaya dish – the tum dong der. There was Isan style and Thai style – there was some subtle differences, with the Isan style (I think) being a little more spicy. We went with that one – bring on the spice! I learned from the menu, by the way, that Isan refers to the Northeastern plateau of Thailand. The more you know…
To supplement the tum dong der, we perused the rest of the menu – I’m happy to say that I actually didn’t recognize a lot of the dishes. Even though Thai is one of my go-to takeout cuisines, I usually stick to the same few (Americanized) dishes. My eating buddy said the menu looked very authentic, so I was eager to dig in.
When the tum dong der arrived, it looked so beautifully arranged (first photo) – with shredded papaya in the center and all sorts of yummy ingredients on the side – hard boiled egg, noodles, fried shrimp, shellfish, pork rinds, greens, bean sprouts, fried fish, chilies, and much more. We weren’t sure how to eat it, so we started to pick a little from each pile until we were advised that it was all supposed to be mixed together. Ohhhh – got it. I’m glad someone told us, because the flavors all combined were divine. AND spicy! Wow. We ordered “medium spice” which was plenty for me – yum.
To supplement this main dish, we decided on the sa poak kai tod der – deep fried chicken thighs:
Both my eating buddy and I had tried the chicken wings at Pok Pok Ny (where my Ted Allen dinner was), and those wings pretty much were the standard to which all other Thai fried chicken dishes were compared. Well dare I say that Somtum Der’s fried chicken was slightly better – yes, I said it! Wow. And the location is a little easier to get to as well, so in my book that’s a big win.
We also tried the larb ped (spicy minced duck salad with green vegetables and chilis):
I’m a big duck fan, and also recently tried larb (minced salad) for the very first time as well – so this was a perfect combination for me! Once again, they did not skimp on the spice (you do see that bright red chili pepper there, don’t you) and this dish was jam-packed with flavor, texture, and aroma. Wow.
We were pretty full at this point, but of course we couldn’t finish the meal without dessert, right? Our waiter chose for us, and we were served the snow ice with syrup:
Even though it was brutally cold out that day, this dessert was soon history. I love ice desserts (i.e. ice kacang, Hawaiian shave ice, Snoopy Sno-Cone, the list goes on really), and this one, with a delicate rosewater syrup, red bean topping, and slices of bread to soak it all up – yup you read that correctly, was no exception. It was well worth the ensuing shivers.
If you’re looking to expand your Thai cuisine expertise from pad Thai and Massaman curry, I’d definitely recommend checking Somtum Der out. The extensive menu is authentic enough to please Thai food experts but also user-friendly enough to appeal to anyone. I’ll definitely be making a return visit in the near future!
How much spice can you take in your food?
85 Avenue A (btw 5th/6th)