Arts and Entertainment

Thai Villa: Bursting with Asian Flavors

Thai Villa is a great place to get acquainted with authentic Thai cuisine because of its mix of classic and traditional dishes rarely found outside the Bangkok food scene.

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Upon entering Thai Villa, your eyes are immediately drawn to the glowing amber chandeliers and bright yellow lamps that give the room a luxurious yet warm ambiance. The golden-brown booths and tables are delicately hand-carved with intricate designs, while the blue tiles perfectly contrast with the restaurant’s dark interior. The hallway leading down to the kitchens is lined with paintings of the Buddha and steel lamps featuring floral patterns. The soft classical music playing in the background and the pleasant chatter make the opulent setting welcoming.

Located on 19th Street and 5th Avenue, Thai Villa was opened in 2001 by Intira and Norapol Youngphitak, who were both born in Bangkok and wanted to give New Yorkers a chance to experience traditional Thai cuisine. While their menu includes classics like Pad Thai and Tom Yum, the restaurant specializes in lesser-known dishes like Shrang Wa Goong (grilled prawn salad served on kaffir lime leaves) and Kaeng Hung Ley (pork belly curry originating from northern Thailand). Many of their dishes are based on family recipes refined over the years. 

I ordered their lunch special, which included an appetizer and entrée with a complimentary starter. The special was well priced ($15 to $25, depending on the entrée) considering the impeccable quality and presentation of the dishes.

To drink, I had Thai iced tea, a mildly floral and subtly spiced organic black tea brewed in-house and served in an ornate glass cup. Many Thai restaurants water down their iced tea or do not add enough condensed milk, but Thai Villa’s iced tea was creamy and flavorful. I began with the complementary mushroom soup, which was light and salty and had a generous amount of chopped mushrooms interspersed throughout. As an appetizer, I had the fried spring rolls filled with vermicelli noodles and mixed vegetables. The rolls were seasoned with pepper and chili flakes, crispy on the outside without being oily.

The entrées came on white and blue china plates decorated with delicate patterns. The Pad See-Ew consisted of broad noodles coated in a thick soy sauce over broccolini, tofu, and mock duck. The noodles were al-dente, and the sauce was slightly spicy and tangy, complementing the crunchy blanched broccolini. The tofu melted in my mouth, and the mock duck was crispy on the outside but soft and buttery on the inside. Many Thai restaurants in the city make the sauce either too tangy or too spicy, but Thai Villa strikes the perfect balance between sweet and sour.

Thai Villa is a great place to introduce people to authentic Thai cuisine because of its mix of classic and traditional dishes rarely found outside the Bangkok food scene. The upscale ambiance and gorgeous seating are perfect for a date or formal dinner. Whether you are looking for a new Thai restaurant or a classy, cultural atmosphere, Thai Villa delivers authenticity in a lavish, 5th Avenue-approved setting.