Rhong-Tiam fills a deep and dimly lit space in the row of businesses occupying the block of LaGuardia Place between 3rd and Bleecker Streets. By anyone's guess, the decor is a composition of remnants from the previous owner, with black and white striped built-in boat seating lining the north wall, and another dozen or so tables on an elevated platform, bordered by a white fence strung with fake ivy. A magenta scooter sits in front, awkwardly blocking much of the waiting area.
Touting authentic Thai food and "modern riffs," the menu includes expected curries, pad thai, and drunken noodles, but also ventures into fusions with Malay, Indian, and Chinese cuisine creating an array of unique house dishes. The refreshing pineapple achat fused hot chili with pickled root vegetables, sweet fruit, and the richness of peanuts, all served in the shell of a purple cabbage.
The "pork on fire," or moo-na-rok, a traditionally southern Thai dish was a fiery plate of pork tips sauteed in garlic, chili, and lemongrass, minorly offset in heat by fried basil and kaffir leaves. The delicious house Thai iced tea might serve as a needed cooling agent at this point. Another house dish, the charcoal grilled duck curry added tomatoes and pineapple to a rich and creamy red curry base made slightly smoky by the meat.
An appealing dessert menu includes traditional dishes like mango sticky rice, but the more adventurous may spring for the thai tea creme brulee. Others still, whose mouths are burning from the pork-on-fire may want to head down LaGuardia to Bruno Bakery for a double scoop of refreshing gelato.
Rhong-Tiam is located at 541 Laguardia Place (between 3rd & Bleecker St.) (212) 477-0600. Open for lunch, dinner, and delivery.