As I mentioned in my post about Wondee Siam II, there are several Wondee Siams in the neighborhood but only one is BYO. We were planning on meeting up with some friends from high school (coincidentally on the night of our 10 year high school reunion, which none of us had an interest in attending) for a late dinner. Some of them had requested an economical option so Josh called the branch of Wondee Siam that offers BYO to make a reservation for 8 people. He was informed by whoever answered the phone that we all needed to be there on time before they would seat us. That was fine by us, as it’s not an unusual restaurant policy.
Josh and I arrived at the tiny restaurant first and looked inside the window, a bit shocked to see just how tiny the restaurant is, and that it was completely full. There wasn’t even a free two-top in sight, let alone a table for 8. Four of our friends arrived a minute later so Josh went inside to check in with the host while the rest of us stood outside in the freezing cold, as there is no room to wait inside the restaurant. We watched through the window as the guy who seemed to be in charge looked startled that we had the nerve to show up on time for our reservation and that we expected to be seated.
To be fair, the last two in our party were about 5 minutes late, but it didn’t really matter. Clearly the restaurant was full, and they had not set aside a table for us. The guy told Josh that a few tables were ready for their checks and it should only be a short wait. So we stood outside, shivering, clutching our bottles of beer and wine. Another fairly large group showed up after us without a reservation (not that it made a difference) and we told them we were waiting for a table. Since they didn’t know about the BYO policy anyway, we sent them across the street to Wondee Siam II where the space is larger and there would probably be more tables available.
And then we waited. And waited some more. All the while trying to peek through the window to get the host’s attention so that he would know we were still waiting. He saw us standing outside and didn’t say or do anything. We did see that checks were handed out to a few tables, but they didn’t seem to be in any sort of rush. So we kept waiting, hoping that someone might notice us still standing outside and take pity. After 45 minutes, we were cold, hungry, and furious.
Debating what to do next, we looked around at the other offerings on 9th Ave. but had our hearts set on Thai food. So we called Wondee Siam II across the street to make sure they had a table available for 8 people, which they did. They don’t have a BYO policy though, and the corking fee is $15. At this point, we didn’t care about BYO anymore. Sure, it’s a money saver and gives us the opportunity to drink whatever we want, but it wasn’t worth the aggravation we were dealing with. We just wanted to sit down and eat, so we headed across the street.
Right before we walked away from the original Wondee Siam, Josh opened the door and gave the host a sarcastic wave and indicated that we were leaving. The guy then had the nerve to run out after us and ask us how many people were in our party. Was he serious??? WE HAD A FREAKIN’ RESERVATION!! It was just so ridiculous, and all the more infuriating that we waited so long for basically nothing. They never intended to honor that reservation and only showed interest in us when we were about to leave. We could have ended up standing out there for hours.
After we arrived at Wondee Siam II, we were a bit hesitant because we didn’t want to give a restaurant that had just treated us so poorly business, but we figured that based on all indications, the two restaurants might share the same name and some sort of association but the actual owners were different. Had the two been more closely related, the guy from the first restaurant would have told us that there was the same restaurant across the street, and might have possibly tried to waive the corking fee for us. That would have been the right thing to do. But him running after us while we were leaving indicated that he wanted to keep our business for himself. And when we got to the second restaurant, we told them that we had a reservation at the branch across the street and they didn’t honor it so we had been waiting forever, and all we got from the hostess was an “Oh really?” but nothing more.
A bit perplexed and still a bit annoyed by the whole situation, we settled down and tried to salvage the rest of our evening. Everyone wanted to order their own entrees but we decided to share a few appetizers. First up were the Thai spring rolls, which are deep fried and filled with shredded vegetables. These are simple and standard but always tasty. Everyone was so hungry that they grabbed at the rolls before I could take a picture.
Thai spring rolls
Next we had basil rolls, which are like summer rolls (unfried spring rolls). They were thin noodles, basil leaves, and shrimp wrapped up in soft rice paper. These were refreshing and light, a nice contrast to our other fried appetizers.
Someone requested the kanom jeeb, which were ground pork and shrimp dumplings, similar to shu mai at Chinese dim sum. They were pretty tasty but the filling was a bit dense and the dumpling was a little soggy.
Steamed pork and shrimp dumplings
Last was the fried tofu, an ample portion that I couldn’t stop eating. The tofu was perfect – light and crispy on the outside and soft and tender in the middle. It was almost like the fried tofu I had in Taiwan that my mom and I still obsess over. Even the people in our group who don’t normally like tofu loved this dish.
Awesome fried tofu
Josh and I decided to share our entrees though we debated for a long time about what to order. As I’ve said before, I’m not a fan of Thai curries, so our options were a bit limited. We finally settled on tofu with eggplant in basil sauce and the pad thai with beef. The tofu was similar to the fried tofu appetizer we had, except that was soaking in the sauce so it didn’t retain any crispiness. They ended up being a bit too chewy and tough though, so I actually preferred the pieces of eggplant instead. The basil sauce was a teensy bit spicy but not terribly so. I’m sure they could adjust the heat accordingly if you request it to be spicier or milder.
Tofu and eggplant in basil sauce
I really liked the pad thai the last time we were at this restaurant, which is why I pushed for it even though Josh wanted to order something else. I was really disappointed though, as it seemed like a totally different dish. This time the noodles were mushy and greasy, and the sauce binding the dish tasted like it might have had ketchup in it. It was just way too sweet, and none of the tanginess or seasonings that I praised the last time we were here.
Beef pad thai
Overall I had mixed feelings about this meal. The appetizers were pretty good, especially the fried tofu, but the entrees were kind of lackluster. Service was excellent, despite the initial indifference to our experience at the first Wondee Siam. Our water glasses were constantly filled, and when the waitress saw what a hard time I was having taking pictures with everyone attacking the food, she made sure to place each new appetizer directly in front of me first. So while they did their best to try to salvage our evening, it was still kind of hard to recover from the level of aggravation we had after our experience with the first restaurant. I think for now we’re going to explore the dozens of other Thai restaurants in our neighborhood, but I would still recommend Wondee Siam II to anyone looking for good, cheap Thai food.
However, avoid Wondee Siam at 792 9th Ave. at all costs!!!
Wondee Siam II (multiple locations)
813 9th Ave. between 53rd and 54th St.
New York, NY