If you’re not immutably fixated on the authentic, join me trundling down to the East Village for the savvy Indonesian refinements of Taweewat Hurapan's Ma*ya Hurapan Kitchen. Warm up at the bamboo sake bar, then settle at a table in the stylish cellar below. (Hurapan’s partner, Thida Thongthai, is the architect.) Early in the Upper West Side era of Rain, I fell for the Bangkok-born chef’s colorful tapestry of Southeast Asian flavors - ginger and coconut, cilantro and mint, the sweet tang of tamarind and the old-tennis-shoe musk of nam pla. It was - and still is - a delicious shock when the usual Styrofoam shrimp chips (scoops for a complex and fragrant dipping sauce) arrive still warm. Spring rolls are a model of immaculate frying, and the Chinese plum dip is just one in a chorus line of sauces with remarkable personality. Luscious tamarind-glazed ribs have us demanding an encore. Too bad Thai-barbecued chicken is only half-good (the usual overcooked-breast syndrome). Why one slightly pink pork chop is luscious and the other so tough is a mystery.
Deep-fried-whole-fish fans will find this one draped with fabulous long beans and basil in a sauce that has just enough pepper heat. Serious carnivores, put off by zealous slicing, will be surprised that properly rare skirt steak can be a triumph of sweet-crustiness anyway.
234 East 4th Street near Avenue B 646 313 1987
CLOSED Sept. '07