I was fortunate enough to be able to go to a spectacular press dinner at Ayada in Chelsea Market which is only a couple of weeks old at the time of this writing. It’s about midway into the Chelsea Market (just after the landmark fountain) and you can’t miss it thanks to the quaint handmade wooden sign and large gong on the bar which is at the very front of the restaurant. You will love not only the food but the fun ambiance–at any given time the waitstaff breaks into impromptu dancing. At the press dinner this week, the owner’s daughter even did an impressive traditional Thai dance with large knives right in front of the restaurant and the passersby stopped and had looks of amazement.Before everyone was seated for dinner we partook of the lovely Mango Mai Tais being passed around. This fruity drink was heavy on the pulp, which I just adored. This is one of the freshest tasting drinks anywhere and the fruity vibe is perfect for the summer months. Also, the alcohol is subtle in this drink–it won’t knock you over. This is just a “light delight” in terms of summer cocktails. I could probably live on these, LOL!Dinner was amazing. The main dining area is quaint and casual; guests sit on wooden benches. Everyone at the dinner was impressed with how gorgeous the presentation was and how everything was super fresh and authentic. The sliced ribeye with drunken noodles blew everyone away. The meat was tender and juicy and the crisp vegetables mixed with the soft vegetables was just a perfect pairing. Spices are not overwhelming at Ayada and there is frequent use of their homemade fish sauce in their Thai homestyle recipes.The big dazzler aka “superstar dish” is the very large grilled whole red snapper with mango and cashews. This is like a work of art–you feel guilty sticking the serving spoon in it. People in Manhattan previously trekked all the way out to the first Ayada in Elmhurst, Queens for this notable dish (that can serve four or more) but now they just have to go to Chelsea Market!The fried tiger prawns topped with traditional Thai mango salad is another dish that had people from Manhattan flocking to Elmhurst and I could both see and taste why. The crunch of the batter combined with the tender and tasty meat on the prawns is a winning combination!The grilled pork with spicy brown dipping sauce was probably my favorite dish. The pork was juicy and tender and had been marinated in fish sauce with traditional Thai spices. You almost did not need a knife to cut it. The beautiful edible greenery surrounding the meat did not go unnoticed and I poured some the brown sauce on it. It was just so fresh and tasty–I saw it as much more than a garnish.The sliced duck in red curry sauce was another favorite at my table of food reporters and bloggers. The curry sauce was mild and flavorful with hints of coconut from the use of fresh coconut milk. This portion in the picture was gone in five minutes as four journalists clammered for it with it with giant eyes and salivating mouths. This dish truly gave all the foodies a big rush of excitement!
The dinner concluded with individual portions of one of Thailand’s most famous desserts–fresh mango over sticky rice. The lovely white sauce that you see is a mixture of condensed and coconut milk. I have only had this once or twice before but this is the perfect example of a light and refreshing dessert that is just perfect for the hot weather in the city right now. It concluded the meal on the perfect note of sweetness. And before I forget, let me state for the record that Ayada has the best Thai coffee and iced tea that I have ever had. It’s not overly sweet as some Thai coffee and ice tea is. Both are beyond perfect. It’s the condensed milk that give these caffeine beverages the perfect amount of smoothness and sweetness.Ayada is casual as mentioned before and reservations are not necessary although you might have a wait at prime dinner hours as it is proving to be the new hotspot of the Chelsea Market. Go to www.ayadathai.com to check out the history behind this family business and to see more of their delicious dishes including classics like pad thai and spicy curries!