Love Actually

Ngam shows the East Village some love

Love has taken Hong Thaimee far.

Raised in Thailand, she left her corporate job to share her affection for cooking with the world.

After stints at the Chiang Mai Mandarin Oriental, Perry St. and Spice Market and finding love in New York, she's landed at her own place, Ngam.

The setting is appropriately East Village, with exposed air ducts, a hard-driving soundtrack and an open kitchen. But the food is face-first palm sugar, fish sauce and chiles merged with, yes, the occasional inauthentic touch.

Thaimee calls it "modern comfort Thai"; we call it delicious.

Blue Point oysters (99 cents) are squirted with Tobiko caviar and pomelo cells; the combination gives the bivalve a briny pop times three.

Thaimee's pile of pad Thai comes in rice noodle ($12 to $14, depending on protein) and shredded papaya versions ($16 to $18, depending on protein). When she cooked the dish during her first week at Spice Market, Jean-Georges Vongerichten bestowed a special nod on it.

Chicken soup is not just rustic, but Very Rustic ($6), its mahogany-colored broth pumped with roasted bones, turmeric, chiles and three types of mint. Tenderized with palm sugar and then deep-fried, Brother Chai's Chicken Wings ($9) will leave your fingers slick with sweet chile-glaze.

After our meal at Ngam, we, like the illuminated sign at the entrance, are feeling the love.

Ngam, 99 Third Ave. (at E. 13th St.); 212-777-8424 or ngamnyc.com

  • Ngam

    Ngam is located in the East Village

  • Ngam

    Chef Hong Thaimee sets her intentions with a lighted "Love" sign at the door.

  • Ngam

    Chef Hong Thaimee with the four-year-old Hong Thaimee.

  • Ngam

    Blue Point oysters topped with fish roe are a raging bargain at 99 cents.

  • Ngam

    The Thai burger ($14) uses the flavors of Thai sausage, along with a green-papaya kraut and Kabocha pumpkin fries for a flavor wallop.

  • Ngam

    Brother Chai's Chicken Wings ($9) come with slices of Lady apples for crunch.

  • Ngam

    Papaya pad thai ($16 to $18) swaps out rice noodles for strips of shredded green papaya.

  • Ngam

    Housemade krachai soda ($5) tastes of lemon, lime and ginger.

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    A lychee-mint shake ($4) is cool and refreshing.

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Ngam 99 Third Ave. New York NY 10003 212-777-8424

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