Midtown Drunken Noodle Showdown: Topaz vs Pam Real Thai Encore

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When you talk about Midtown Thai, there is no hands down go-to spot. Everyone has their individual favorites because everyone’s definition of great Thai varies. NYC Food Guy has been in the process of paring down the competition by eating one of only two dishes at every place: Pad Thai with Chicken and the Dish of the Day Drunken Noodles (Pad Key Mao) with Pork. This is New York and there’s no better way to determine who’s best than by pitting two places together in a head-to-head fight to the death. In other words, an NYC Food Guy Showdown! There will be a lot more of these, but what better to debut with than a fiery Drunken Noodles battle royale?

ROUND 1: THE PORK

I’ll be honest, my favorite part of Topaz’s Drunken Noodles is the pork, and so before I ever had Pam Real Thai Encore, they were at a disadvantage. What makes Topaz’s pork so good is that it’s sliced pork with sweet skin like you’d find on boneless spare ribs. Delicious. It’s tender, moist, and flavorful in comparison to the dry and bland shredded pork you find in Pam Real Thai’s.

DECISION: TOPAZ

ROUND 2: FLAVOR, NOODLES AND HOT-FACTOR

I’m a man who likes his food hot and his noodles moderately sauced. Why do I include these two in the same category? Because the Noodles carry the sauce and the sauce carries the spice. They go hand in hand.

Topaz

To preface, at Topaz I ask for my Drunken Noodles extra spicy. This results in a dish that comes with chili powder on top of the dish, requiring me to mix it up when it first arrives. I’m not really a fan of this but it’s all part of a balanced dish that really is delicious, so I deal. After the chili powder, the spice is derived from chopped Thai Chiles, sliced green Chile peppers, and big fresh leaves of basil. Topaz’s filler is Thai broccoli, but I like the crunch and flavor, it doesn’t bother me. It all results in lightly sauced noodles that sometimes cake together, but are worth overlooking due to balanced and bearably spicy sauce.

Pam Real Thai Encore

Before we get into quality, let’s talk quantity of spice. At Pam Real Thai Encore You can add “kicks” of spiciness, increasing up to 3 levels (i.e. one kick, two kicks, three kicks). I went with 2 kicks and I was in pain. I can handle spicy, but this was the kind of spicy that had my entire face sweating and my nose running. It was awesome. Regardless, the sauce overall was too garlicky. It became the overpowering flavor. There was a decent amount of basil, but it wasn’t as fresh and flavorful as Topaz’s because it was drowned out by the garlic. Also, instead of sliced chile peppers, there were roughly chopped green and red peppers, filler ingredients I can do without. There also seems to be more of a reliance on sauce than with Topaz’s, probably to add flavor where the bland pork falls short. In the end, overabundance of garlic and sauce falls short in the face of sliced chili peppers and balanced flavor.

DECISION: TOPAZ

ROUND 3: PRICE AND DELIVERY EXPERIENCE

Price is a push because both places provide quality sized portions for $9.95. Pam Real Thai Encore, however, is cash only. (NB Pam Real Thai Encore is closed Monday) Delivery, unfortunately, is another story, especially for Topaz, who when it gets busy at lunchtime, just takes their phone off the hook. Unacceptable. I realize they have a dining room to take care of in addition to pick ups but to just take the phone off the hook is not cool. Dinner time delivery has never been a problem but this lunchtime phenomenon angers me. Pam Real Thai Encore, on the other hand, always seems to be able to get to the phone, albeit sometimes after a dozen rings, but at least we know we’ve got a chance. Keep in mind, Pam Real Thai Encore is closed Monday.

DECISION: PAM REAL THAI ENCORE

***OUR WINNER***

***TOPAZ’S PORK DRUNKEN NOODLES***

For me the pork alone is reason enough to go with Topaz’s, but I know some people don’t eat pork. I feel confident enough with the balanced flavor of Topaz’s Drunken Noodles overall to say that no matter what meat (or tofu) you go with, you’ll be pleased. Pass on Pam Real, go to Topaz for Drunken Noodles.

Topaz

127 West 56th St b/t 6th & 7th Ave
New York, NY10019
(212) 957-8020

Pam Real Thai Encore

402 West 47th St b/t 9th & 10th Ave.
New York, NY 10036
(212) 315-4441
Cash Only
Closed Monday
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21 Responses to “Midtown Drunken Noodle Showdown: Topaz vs Pam Real Thai Encore”

  1. Moose Says:

    I love topaz drunken noodles with a passion. Reading this post made me want to go buy me some noodle goodness right now!! Remember that during lunch hours, the drunken noodle dish can be yours for ~$8. Does Pam Real Thai Encore have that? Also, ever try Won Dee Siam? So good ;D

  2. The NYC Food Guy Says:

    Moose-

    I didn’t know it was $8 at lunch. That’s awesome. I never had Won Dee, I tried calling once and the line was busy. I’m getting pretty hungry myself. I’ll be honest. Time to go eat some dinner. Where else do you get good Thai Moose?

  3. TEFKADDR Says:

    There is a great thai spot on 45th street, right off 6th avenue (if I recall correctly). I’ve only been during work day lunch hours so prices are quite reasonable and the food was excellent.

    I’m not always a big thai fan as the food usually makes my nose run for days, but if it is done properly, I’m in love.

  4. The NYC Food Guy Says:

    TEKADDR,

    What’s the place called?

  5. Thai Guri Says:

    I know that restaurant!!!!!

    it’s called “Thai me up and beat the shit out of me.”

    real good food.

  6. stevenp Says:

    Thai Guri – Nah, Thai Me Up is on 14th St. bet. 2nd/3rd. Great thai sandwiches! I used to love Topaz (when I worked nearby) but always got their steak w/peanut sauce dish or the Jungle Curry. Never tried their drunken noodles. Will give it a shot when I’m back in the hood.

  7. The NYC Food Guy Says:

    Thai Me up is awesome. I reviewed it in my east village food tour, which you can see here.

    Thai Guri, interesting, I’m going to check it out. What’s the best dish to get at Thai Guri.

    What is Jungle Curry?

    Definitely go with the pork if you get the drunken noodles. Thanks for the info Stevenp.

  8. French Culinary Institute Says:

    I just graduated from FCI, where I am specializing in Thai food. I find this post to be quite interesting. You really know what you’re talking about NYC Food Guy.

    Keep on writing and I’ll keep on reading!

  9. Chef Steve Says:

    I’m a chef. I can make Jungle Curry. In my pants.

  10. The NYC Food Guy Says:

    French Culinary Institute,

    Thanks for the love. The mission continues. Any favorite Thai spots in the city for you? Favorite Dishes?

    Chef Steve,

    Interesting recipe. I’m going to have to pass on Jungle Curry if that’s how it’s made. Thanks for shedding some light on that.

  11. caroline Says:

    mmmm….honestly, they both look yummy. great review. love discovering new places to eat in the city–esp. cheap, yummy ethnic foods!

  12. Midtown Lunch » Will We Ever Find Another Yum Thai? Says:

    […] week, NYC Food Guy (aka Lawrence, aka “Superman”) has a Drunken Noodles showdown, with the Out of Bounds: Pam Real Thai Encore (47th btw. 9+10th) losing to Topaz on 56th btw. […]

  13. The NYC Food Guy Says:

    Caroline-

    Thanks for the kind words. It’s all about cheap ethnic food that is actually delicious. Where are some of your top spots in the city? Great photos on your site btw.

  14. chowsue Says:

    My Thai husband loves Wondee, and Pam.

    He used to live a few blocks from each though, so maybe that swayed his vote. He does say they are both the best of Manhattan.

    But every time I ask him, he refuses to acknowledge any other place in NYC other than one Thai place in Astoria under the EL train. I forget the name..Arharn Thai? Why is that one so much better than Pam or Wondee? What do I know? I’m a farang.

    BTW, Food Guy..if you love pad kee mao..try pad see ew. That is my favorite. It is like pad kee mao, but not as saucy. I have pad see ew down cold, and can cook it without a recipe by now….still have to work on pad kee mao! šŸ™‚ OH, they are both delicious though, so it’s all good.

  15. The NYC Food Guy Says:

    Chowsue,

    Thanks for stopping by and saying hello. I haven’t tried Wondee yet but it’s atop the Thai to do list. I don’t know about the place in Astoria, I do know about sripraphai in woodside, which I’ve heard a lot of praise for. I looked up the name as you typed it and it is indeed Arharn. Here’s a review from NY Times.

    As far as Pad See Ew goes, isn’t it also sweet compared to Pad Kee Mao’s spicy? What’s the secret to cooking great Thai, specifically great Pad See Ew? I love cooking but don’t get too nearly enough, do you use a wok? Is it possible to cook Thai well without a wok?

    What are YOUR top Thai spots? Where are you from originally?

    Look forward to hearing back from you.

  16. Ulla Says:

    I have never had drunken noodles. Can you imagine? This makes me regret this lapse in my foodie endeavors:P

  17. The NYC Food Guy Says:

    Ulla-

    You are definitely missing out. Do you like spicy food?

  18. Ulla Says:

    Yes, I LOVE spicy food. I think once you like it it becomes an addiction.
    I love pad thai, but I will opt for the drunken noodles next time.

  19. The NYC Food Guy Says:

    Ulla-

    That’s a good plan, let me know how it goes with the Drunken Noodles.

    Where’s your favorite Pad Thai?

  20. Wondee Siam’s Pork Drunken Noodles (Key Mao Pork): Skimpy Portion & Undesireable Veggies « NYC Food Guy Says:

    […] Pork): Skimpy Portion & Undesireable Veggies Wondee Siam was recommended to me after the Midtown Pork Drunken Noodle Showdown between Topaz and Pam Real Thai Encore. Pork Druken Noodles (flat noodles sauteed with Thai Chiles […]

  21. Midtown Lunch: Outdoor Eating Spots « NYC Food Guy Says:

    […] Topaz Thai […]

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