By Amy McCarthy
By Scott Reitz
By Scott Reitz
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Alice Laussade
By City of Ate
But that was the only notable slippage in this cool space filled with black high-backed banquettes, walls drenched in saturated reds and teals, and assortments of little Asian statues and trinkets. (A flock of ducks flies across one wall.) Pacific Rim is what PF Chang's would look like if it wasn't hyperventilating over its own mainstreamed hipness.
Pacific Rim also has Chinese stabs that amount to far more than just a splash of hoisin sauce on a pink breast. There's dim sum too. But like everything else here, there's a twist and an adulteration here and there--Thai salted beef, chicken satay, California rolls--to elevate it.
The dim sum plate ($9) had more hits than misses. Golden purses, pouches made of tofu skin and filled with pulverized crab and chicken and tied off, were delicious if a little soggy from sitting in the puddle of sauce on the plate. Moon leaves, spring-roll pastry somehow welded to pork and shrimp, were equally delicious. But the spring roll was boring and nondescript and was wrapped in thick, indelicate folds of rice paper. Little crimped pouches of rice flour stuffed with peas, corn, and spices were doughy and had little to elevate them above the strenuously mundane.
Curled, putrefying lettuce edges marred the gingered beef salad with Thai pepper dressing ($8), a potentially profound platform for the lush, tender, bright red strips of beef bedded down with shredded carrot, beets, daikon radish, and cucumber slices.
And though generally delicious, the warm and cold seafood salad ($11) also had some leafy drawbacks. Served in a delicate spring-roll pastry bowl, the greens were piled with some of the best deep-fried and chilled seafood I've ever come across. Shrimp and strips of fried calamari were sweet, tender, and virtually greaseless. Plus, the coatings had a good gritty crunch. Interspersed amongst the golden fried sea life were nuggets of cold poached lobster. Yet the drawback was the viscous and sweet mango-sherry dressing that coated the greens like some sort of insect excretion and gave the leaves a flavor reminiscent of those mini-marshmallow fruit salads that terrorized the picnics of my youth. The dressing made the greens limp and listless, robbing them of vibrancy.
Tempura shrimp cocktail ($9) with avocado purée and red chili aioli is one of those Japanese-Southwestern fusings that sounds good on paper. It might work well in reality, except the headliner stumbled, showing badly with a slightly gummy tempura coating that leaked grease when squeezed.
Some dishes are served in special vessels, perhaps to make up any deficiencies that might be perceived. SoHo noodles ($12) arrived in a white bowl with the hollow part carved in the shape of a star. But after sampling the contents, it was clear this dish needed no nudging. SoHo noodles are light, deft, and pleasing. Ingredients are floated in a light, smooth soy-oyster sauce, with its murky brown essence up to the edges of the star points. Wine-marinated strips of flank steak are juicy, firm, and chewy, without any errant gristle or catastrophic cooking damage. Browned, wide rice noodles are firm yet tender. The only wrench in this conundrum of extraordinary balance was the slightly stale tangles of dried rice noodles crowning the dish.
Housemade cheesecake ($5.50) was delicious. Though what we actually ordered was a thing called apricot chilled cheesecake, it was delivered as a lime chilled cheesecake, only I think someone forgot the lime, probably the same person who forgot to spice the yams. Still, it was good: smooth, light, fluffy, and creamy with a good thick crust.
Chow Thai Pacific Rim is the third link in a trio of odd but thrilling (though not always consistently successful) Asian restaurants spawned by Vinnie Virasin, the restaurateur who hatched Chow Thai and Mango Thai. Pacific Rim whets the appetite, not only for the stylish food served here, but for the other ideas that might be hatched from Virasin's brain. All I can say is, keep the chain mail coming.