"The only thing I don’t get," I told the owner of Amster Thai, “is why there’s a regular deli pickle here and not something more Thai.”
“Weeel,” owner Bert Cormack responded in his Scottish accent, “Branston pickle would actually go best.”
In what world would Branston pickle, a mainstay British condiment from my husband’s stomping grounds, be a fitting accompaniment for a Thai snack? Weeeel, certainly, when that snack is a Thai Scotch egg.
The sight of that Thai Scotch egg flashing on a large TV screen lured me into Amster Thai, a small attractive restaurant that opened on Amsterdam Avenue in late 2016. Scotch eggs are hard boiled eggs with a slightly underdone yolk encased in sausage meat, rolled in breadcrumbs and deep-fried. I’ve had the real deal made of British Cumberland sausage at British emporium Myers of Keswick and at British pub par excellence, The Shakespeare. So, I was curious what touches would make this item, purportedly invented at London’s Fortnum and Mason, truly “Thai.”
Amster’s Scotch egg ($4.95) Thai accents are subtle—hints of red curry, coconut and maybe even lemongrass. Dip it in the Srichacha mayo and you have a swoonworthy snack. Cormack seemed receptive to my suggestion that there be something more inspiring than deli pickle chips as a “go-with.”
I met Cormack eight years earlier, when I did an article on the surge of Thai restaurants on the Upper West Side. I remember being impressed by his dedication to serving authentic Thai dishes at Wondee SiamV; there was even a secret Thai menu. His co-owner and Thai wife Worrawalun, who goes by “Nice,” was chef there and is the chef at Amster, providing an eclectic menu featuring items like the everything-but-the-kitchen sink spicy Kra Prow Gai: minced chicken and shrimp swaddled in a wonton wrap with egg, bean sprouts, basil, ground peanut, tofu and a topper of shredded roast pork.
Cormack admits that their repertoire got “stale” at Wondee SiamV, and it probably didn’t help to be across from the hugely popular Thai Market. He told me proudly how he now gets fresh cooked noodles daily from a tiny little place in Chinatown, Tak Yick Noodle. It’s the same place that supplies Mission Chinese with their How-Fun noodles, as you can see in this video of executive chef Angela Dimayuga.
The noodles were in my daughter’s Pad Se Ew, and while, as my daughter says, “Pad Se Ew is Pad Se Ew,” these noodles were light and not the over-thick and glutinous ones that can make this comfort dish a true pad-se-goo.
Meanwhile, I’m excited about the other possible Anglo-Thai hybrids that could come out of Amster’s kitchen. There’s already “Thai Fish & chips,” so how about Thai Steak and Mushroom pie? How-Fun Haggis anyone?
844 Amsterdam Avenue. (btw 101st and 102nd Sts.)