The last dish I ate at this address was a sizzling dolsot bibimbap — one of Korea’s great plates, and one of the world’s great words. (Just say it aloud a few times, quickly. Bibimbap, bibimbap, bibimbap… fun eh? )
The family that used to run the likeable Korean restaurant Miga — which I wrote about in 2011, and which served that good bibimbap — now runs Social Thai at the same address. This, according to our super-keen, accommodating (and still clearly in-training) server and bartender at a midweek August dinner here.
Plain-Jane Miga has been completely remodelled. Blacks and golds deliver some elegant glitz, the lighting is subdued, and the reluctance to overdo the clichés of Thai décor is welcome.
Dishes, on the other hand, arrive fussed over, presented in elegant vessels. And mostly, they taste as good as they look. There are exceptions: the house oversized spring rolls are nothing special, and the squash fritters, which are greasy-fun crunchy starters, need more flavour to make the grease really count.
The signature curry is a well done classic with seafood, yardlong beans, Asian eggplant and peppers, reddened with curry paste, smoothed with coconut milk, and fragrant with plenty of Thai basil. As appetizers go, the juicy saté, fried tofu and the Social Thai sausage — made in house, rich and delicious — strike me as the items to order. (Though the pickled-pink ginger served with those sausages seems an ill-placed hangover from the kitchen’s Miga days.)
Over a Thai-flavoured mojito (muddled with lemongrass, mint and kaffir lime leaf) we plot next moves.
A piquant nest of shredded mango, red onion and julienne vegetables, with toasted rice powder, chopped mint and roasted cashews, delivers on every front except for the incendiary heat we expect from a classic Thai salad. Quite possibly our error: it was later in the evening I notice the menu’s sidebar option to ramp up or down the chile heat of a dish. In fact, we found none of the food at Social Thai particularly combustible. The default seems to be mild. But I understand completely a restaurant’s interest — particularly a restaurant that caters more to a downtown lunch crowd — to keep the pow factor to a minimum. If you want to stoke the fire, you need to ask.
The signature curry, the one called Social Thai Curry, is a well done classic with seafood, yardlong beans, Asian eggplant and peppers, reddened with curry paste, smoothed with coconut milk, and fragrant with plenty of Thai basil. Pad King Sod has a pleasing ginger hit, the vegetables within springy and bright. And there’s a fried tilapia dish that’s almost too pretty to eat, with the crunchy fish loaded down with onion, glistening peppers, flash-fried basil leaves and stems of green peppercorns. But I think you’ll manage.