Diane Wongprasert is no newbie to the restaurant business. Owner of Regional Thai Taste, Pad Thai, and Sa-Woy, Lower East Side newcomer Sticky Rice is the latest in Wongprasert's Thai ventures. With yet to procure a liquor license (your server might ask you to sign a petition), the Orchard Street joint is still BYO, but in Gothamist's opinion, that makes Sticky Rice an even better bargain. Dishes prepared in the northeastern Thai tradition contribute to an extensive menu that highlights barbeque with lemongrass marinades, a plethora of classic noodle and rice dishes like popular favorite Pad Thai, homemade curries, and more than a dozen vegetarian entrée options.
Red semicircular booths line the north side of the former hoisery shop; tables and chairs fill up the remainder. Light is low, but convivial, except when the street light just outside irritatingly turns on and off. On a recent night, Gothamist and our dining companions started out with a selection of appetizers ($4-6). The curiously named fire crackers were the tasty winner, chicken and Thai herbs in a crisp tofu skin with spicy dipping sauce. Apricot plum sauce served as sweet accompaniment to triangular spring rolls stuffed with shrimp, chicken, and cilantro root; calamari were breaded in cornmeal, a slightly too crunchy variant for Gothamist's palate.
Entrées, and entrée-sized salads are reasonably priced from $6 - 15, with many more options on the lower end than the higher. Our server, admittedly not a seafood fan, recommended the house massaman curry with chicken, a delightfully spicy coconut-based curry rich with pearl onions, roasted peanuts, cardamom, and a choice of chicken or beef. The sirloin lemongrass salad, was spicy and tart with a serano lime chile dressing, offering hints of fresh mint against thin slabs of marinated sirloin. Thai Su-Ki, thin rice noodles with vegetables, tofu, and chicken swam in a steaming hot "red devils broth" awakening the taste buds and making our nose run. Herbaceous basil brown "fried rice" was nutty, tasting of whole grains while studded with tofu, bamboo shoots, snow peas, and red beans.
Sweet potato flan and a napoleon were the only two dessert options for the night, so Gothamist tried both, with weary expectations. Much to our delight, the napoleon's brulee'd top offered crisp contrast to its sweet cream and the potato flan was velvety and just sweet enough, holding all the flavors of fall, topped with a mint leaf.
Bamboo shoots, lime leaf, coconut milk, chili paste, lemongrass, and myriad fresh fruits (mango, papaya) and vegetables make repeat appearances through out the menu in both sweet and savory form. We recommend going to Sticky Rice as a group, grabbing a few bottles at your nearby wine store, and sharing as many appetizers and entrees and your stomachs will allow. The prices are right, the atmosphere relaxed, and the service is pleasant enough, if not just a tad too relaxed.
Sticky Rice is located at 85 Orchard Street (at Broome). 212-274-8208. BYOB.