I call this sculpture "Golden Bags with Fish Sauce."

Fresh off last week’s delicious Zabb excursion, I had another craving for spicy Thai last night.  Instead of going to Jackson Heights, though, we headed to Myrtle Thai, on Myrtle Av. between Vanderbilt and Clinton in Brooklyn.  I’m not really sure what to call this neighborhood…Clinton Hill North?  Prattville?  Anyway, Myrtle Av.’s got quite a strip, befitting its status as a former elevated line path.  Plenty of restaurants and even a hip coffee bar can be found, and the BQE is a mere stone’s throw north (and the Navy Yard beyond, if you’re getting really adventurous).

The restaurant is a fairly large space, yet seems sparsely decorated – the joint was nearly empty for most of our meal, which may have contributed to the sparse feeling.  The back room with the kitchen is rather large and the open window and door allow a view of the cooking process to the diner looking towards the rear.  The staff was very friendly and intrigued by my request for spice – I wonder whether most of their business is Pratt students looking for cheap Pad Thai and curries.  It seemed so, from the in- and out-flux of customers while we were there.

Anyway, we ordered the Golden Bags appetizer to start the meal off.  Like Sietsema suggests in the recent Best Of 2005 (though he referred to another restaurant’s iteration – Myrtle Thai won Best Brooklyn Thai, not Worst Appetizer Name), the dish’s name is a fairly unfortunate misnomer.  They seemed more like chicken meatballs with a slight hint of fishy flavor (probably the ground shrimp, but it was faint), wrapped in a wonton-style dough – one could also call them a deep fried dumpling.  The sweet-and-sour dip served with them seemed somewhat incongruous, though not totally bland – in retrospect, I think I would have liked some fish sauce to dip these in.  I ended up trying them with the hot sauce on the table, which wasn’t bad, but not fantastic.

I had advised my friend, based on my experience with cashews at Zabb, to try the cashew nuts dish with his choice of meat (pork).  Unfortunately, Myrtle Thai didn’t cook the cashews as well or seemingly as long as Zabb did – the dish was still serviceable, however, with a sweet-ish sauce, onions, carrots, peppers, scallions, and the probably-could-have-been-left-out pineapple chunks.  More meat would have been a nice touch, too.  Hmm, that kind of sounds like I’m panning it – far from it.  My friend enjoyed it, and I found it a nice change of pace from when the fish sauce and larb got a little too intense.

My beef larb (I wonder if “larb” is a different Anglicization of the same Thai word that begat Zabb’s “laab” – are the two related?) was dynamite, though – I had made sure to let the waitress know I wanted an authentic level of spiciness, and I believe that my request was honored.  Shredded but not ground, the beef was coated in its seasonings.  To be sure, this beef was pungent, sour, spicy, and extremely flavorful.  Fish sauce was seemingly used as a primary seasoning, to what I consider great effect.  A perfunctory array of shredded carrots and lettuce also adorned my plate, which I skipped in favor of the rice that arrived with the salad.  Feeling the rice also a bit bland, I requested and received fish sauce to put on the rice.  Man, that stuff is salty but hot, too, in a creep-up-on-you sort of way.  And, yes, it smells funky as hell.  C’est la guerre.

Myrtle Thai is a great place to get some good Thai on the nights where a trek to Jackson Heights from Brooklyn seems out of the question.  Pratt students, are you listening?  Try the larb; at authentic spice levels, it’s breathtaking!  I know that the concept of “fish sauce” is moderately disgusting to even the most resolute carnivore, and that many of you are no doubt meatless in one level of stringency or another, but this stuff is addicting.  You’ll be the hippest stinky-food kid in the dorm.

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