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