71 First Avenue
New York, NY 10003
(212) 253-2741

Vegetarian food, a friend once told me, must be the most insecure of all foods. It's always trying to pretend that it's something else. Vegetarian hamburgers, vegetarian chicken nuggets, vegetarian bacon... tofurkey. It basically says "look, we all know that meat is amazing. So come join our ranks and we'll try to convince you that you never gave it up." I kinda wish that tofu was tofu was tofu, rather than some attempt to parallel what usually tastes like some processed meat product. But that's me. And then again, who doesn't like the taste of processed meat product?

This, dear readers, is but one of a handful of reasons why I rarely bother eating vegetarian food. Still, when Dogz suggested that we check out this vegetarian Thai joint in the East Village called Pukk I didn't think twice. I think I even interrupted his attempt to convince me. "Yeah let's go." Maybe the closet vegetarian in me was crying out to be heard. Maybe the closet hipster in me was crying out to be fed. Maybe the cheapskate bum in me was crying out for a place where I could pay with a twenty and get change.

Pukk, like almost all Thai restaurants, tries hard to be look like something in a science fiction movie set. I've been in ones that are like eating inside neon tunnels, I've been to ones where the bathroom walls are one way glass so you can watch people eat while you pee, I've been to ones with wading pools you could swim in, and I've been to ones that look like they came right out of THX-1138. Pukk is lined floor to ceiling (including tables) in small round tiles. It's like eating in a subway station. I was half expecting the E train to rumble through. Anyone not lucky enough to sit on the bench seat will be forced to endure placing their bum on teeny green glowing plastic chairs, so uncomfortable and bendy that it's clear that the person buying them never actually sat on one before placing the order. Still, for all my complaining, the food was top notch.

To start with, I decided to try the Tom Yum Spicy Tofu Soup, a lemongrass soup with mushroom and onion. It was a bit thin, with almost more mushroom than soup, but it wasn't bad. Dogz liked it more than I did and found it spicier than I did. Dogz ordered the Curry Thai Pancake, a thick pancake with a spicy curry dip. This was very good. If you like thick and chewy Asian pancakes, then this is probably the appetizer for you. My appetizer, other than the soup (Pukk is just so cheap) was the Tofu Parcel: tofu wrapped potato, peas, carrots, in a black chili sauce. Delicious.

The entrees at Pukk are heavy in number and light in cost. There are noodle dishes, curry dishes and the fraudulent "meat" ones. We only tried two, and I am itching to return and try more. I almost almost almost went back the next day for lunch, but for one reason or another, it didn't happen. Soon enough, I suppose. Dogz's entree was the Gravy Noodle with "duck": noodles with Asian vegetables in a ginger gravy sauce. Speaking of the sauce, it was swimming in it like a stew. Dogz liked this aspect of the dish. Me, not so much. But that aside, it was quite tasty. I'd love to know what the sauce was, because it was very beef-like. My choice was the Pad See Ew with "duck" and egg: Broad noodles in a black bean sauce. The fake duck aside, which honestly wouldn't fool anyone, this might have been one of the best pad see ew's I've had. It was certainly the best in recent memory. I highly recommend it.

Three appetizers and two entrees cost us about $32. They practically give this stuff away.

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