Star of Siam

Sometimes you don't want snazzy décor or a big dining room filled with fashionable souls. You just want some good ethnic food in a little, low-key joint. If this is you, Star of Siam is your place. The family eatery is small (and so is the parking lot), and it's best to bring cash. The pad kee mao, a signature Thai stir-fried noodle dish, is incredibly flavorful here. The broad, flat rice noodles are mixed with bean sprouts and meat or tofu and soaked in a delicious sauce of lime juice, ground red chili and fresh basil. There's nothing like it, especially combined with the yummy tom kha soup and distinctive Thai/Lao dish called larb, minced chicken with a smattering of delectable spices.

The flatiron steak here is sure to curl your toes. It's a quantum leap richer than most steaks, woven as it is with a harness of fat that melts and leaches into the meat fibers. It relegates the bulk of prime beef to the sub market sector in one clean cut. It's called akaushi beef—allegedly a few cuts above prime, and this meat is so lustrous and rich, so rippled with complex layers of flavor tethered to smooth textures, it's like eating foie gras. It sweats an extracted nuttiness not unlike a dry-aged rib eye—an arresting plate of rich meat that is so creamy you'll want to shuck the steak knife and opt for a straw.

La Cubanita

Over at La Cubanita, Alberto Lombardi's new Cuban "concept" restaurant, they're a bit goo-goo over guava. It seems like any time you ask your server, "Hey what's in this that makes it taste so good?" the answer is "guava." You name it: appetizers, side dishes—even La Cubanita's ribs have guava sauce. But it works, so who's complaining? The guava's sweet, juicy innards work best, in fact, in the pasteles de guayaba y queso, a dessert that should never work but does. The recipe starts with a typical Latin pastry, a sort of semi-sweet turnover, which is filled with cream cheese and guava compote. It's heated, so the cheese hits that nice, almost liquid consistency, and the heat brings out the guava's unique flavor. The turnover is then topped with ice cream, making the whole luscious thing a sort of Cuban version of apple pie, but with a guava-y twist. Try one with a café Cubano—a sweetened espresso they make expertly at La Cubanita—and you'll be happy. Fat, but happy.

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