722 Amsterdam Avenue
New York, NY 10025
(212) 866-9800

With very few exceptions, Thai food is Thai food is Thai food is Thai food is Thai food. Charm, on the Upper West Side, is Thai food. Most of the time, Thai restaurants attempt to differentiate themselves with décor or some sort of theme. The hip one, the romantic one, the clubby one, the authentic one, the fancy expensive one, the one that has an even bigger wading pool in the center of the room with even more candles floating in it than the previous champ of trendiness, the one with the giant gold Buddha statue (after all, if the Buddha preached about anything, it was pad thai eaten under the din of house music). But from a food perspective, they all pretty much serve the same thing the same way. In fact, one of the best Thai meals I can remember having was at a depressing little hole of a place in my neighborhood that looked like it was just this side of filing for bankruptcy. It went against the grain, but was worth it.

This time, I ventured out to Mr. Dogz’s hood. We wandered aimlessly for a little while. A few joints stood out to me but he vetoed them for being either too expensive or too vegetarian. Charm, a Thai place that yet to try, was where ended up ending up. I don’t want to say that Charm fancies itself to be among the "romantic" Thais, but it does have soft lighting and roses at every table. Still, there were no couples that I could see. Only friends or groups or single people eating while they read.

Charm isn’t expensive, with appetizers costing $6 and entrees coming in at about $15. I ordered two things that are comfortable staples of my Thai dining experiences: (1) the Curry Puff, a pastry filled with a curried mush chicken, potato, and onions with a sweet cucumber-onion dipping sauce. The curry puffs were somewhat on the dry side and were in dire need of the sauce in which they were liberally drenched by me; and (2) Tom Yum Goong soup, a spicy soup with chili, mushroom, lime, lemongrass and shrimp. It was good. Not spicy enough to get my nose to run, though, and they skimped on the shrimp (two of ‘em). Dogz ordered the Steamed Dumplings, filled with minced chicken, shallots, peanuts, and radish which he thought were “pretty good. They’re very flavorful.” I didn’t try them.

As we sat eating the appetizers, looking around at the food ordered by other diners, I was surprised at how artistically the plates were arranged. My duck dish was arranged in this artistic style. It was a nice touch. Dogz ordered a simple Green Chicken Curry, which came in a triangular bowl with a side of white rice. I liked it, in the sense that I didn’t think it was bad. To be blunt, I thought that the chicken was, like my curry puff, a bit dry and the curry somewhat average Joe. My entrée, the Duck Tangerine, was described as a “crispy roasted duck with eggplant topped in a sweet tangerine sauce.” One look at the layer of fat under the skin in the photo and you can see that "crispy" may have been a poor definition. Duck is admittedly a pretty complicated bird to cook in large part because getting all that fat from between the skin and the meat without turning your duck into a cinder block takes a lot of trial and error to get right. I enjoyed the meal for the most part, but there was a lot of fat to discard. Get past this and the eggplant and sauce was just fine. Still, I think I'll leave the crispy duck to the French from now on and order something more noodle-based the next time I find myself eating Thai.

Three appetizers, two entrees, a soda, tax and tip, totaled less than $52.

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