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January 28, 2006

Em in Carroll Gardens

Last night I discovered that the Thai restaurant at 278 Smith has become good (and Thai!).

The place used to be called "Three Bow Ties." The kitchen specialized in sweet coconut-milk based sauces in pastel hues.

Now, the restaurant has reinvented itself as "Em" and the food is dramatically better. We ordered takeout from Em last night.

We started with the Thai roti: a panfried pancake served with a souplike dipping sauce. I was impressed that the roti pancake came in an insulated envelope instead of the usual aluminum foil. The pancake was tasty, if slightly greasy. Roti dipping sauce surprised me. It was basically a tub of black bean sauce. I was expecting something more Thai-inflected for dipping, but Thad liked the sauce so much he poured it all on his rice and devoured it.

I ordered the cumin-smoked chicken. The order came with three pieces of chicken on a bed of lettuce and a nice green papaya side salad. The meat seemed to have been pre-cooked in aromatic smoke and then roasted to cook the skin. The results were very good. I couldn't really taste the cumin, but the meat was juicy and thoroughly permeated by smoky flavor.

Thad had the basil duck, which he enjoyed a lot. The fry cook at EM really knows what he's doing. The duck skin was perfectly crisp.

We shared an order of "Red Hot Green Beans" which turned out to be green beans stir fried with deep-fried tofu cubes and served in a chili sauce. Very satisfying, although I would have preferred fresh or pan-fried tofu.

I notice that the Brooklyn blogger 423 Smith gave EM a mixed review, and that many of his commenters also had mixed reactions. I encourage them to give Em another try.


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I still can't get over how much Smith Street (and Boerum Hill in general) has changed since I lived there. In my day, Smith Street commerce was very downmarket -- bodegas, butchers, video rental, and the like. The only "cuisine" was a decent pizzaria, a horrible Chinese takeout, and a couple of mediocre Latino places. I doubt I'd recognize it today, with all the boutiques and restaurants.

I don't do Thai very often, but what you had sounds like serious business. The basil duck esp. sounds like something that doesn't happen - or at least happen well - everyday.

Are there Japanese restaurants in NYC you particularly like?

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