The revamped Union Square restaurant is bringing a new spin to Thai food
Thai places are a dime a dozen these days. However, the re-opening of Qi on Union Square (31 West 14th Street) -- after a menu relaunch and a renovation -- really is a breath of fresh air.
"Since Union Square is so highly trafficked and there's a varied mix of people, it was a challenge to add a new variation of Thai food as an interesting alternative for people in the area," said co-owner Ahm Bopit.
Because the area is flooded with fast-food and chain establishments, co-owners Yance Lim, Ahmm Bopit, and Moo Juttana felt that it would be smart to take advantage of the farmer's market in Union Square and Chelsea Market, tailoring the menu in a way that best utilized the neighborhood's produce offerings.
The vibe at Qi is such that it could easily have been transplanted from the Meatpacking District, with its dim lighting, trance music, oak finishes and mirrors galore, but the bonus here is that everyone can actually hear each other talk, and the crowd is diverse.
"Initially our concept was to serve Thai dishes that showcase herbs and spices with health benefits," said Bopit. "We named the restaurant Qi, meaning 'good energy force,' which internally enables us to live healthy, well balanced lives."
There's a base menu of classic dishes offered at all three locations, including the Qi Pad Thai, made with a smattering of different seafood and wrapped in a big fried egg.
Chef Pichet Ong, who originally hails from Thailand and has worked at Jean Georges and Spice Market, brings traditional dishes and sharing plates to the mix, including Goong Pao Yahm Pollamai, grilled Tiger Prawns with gooseberries and seasonal fruit salad; and Tuhm Tau Mooh Grohb, a sugar snap pea salad with crispy pork belly, tomatoes, peanuts, chili, lime, and palm sugar, and a whole Tilapia (beware of the spicy sauce that comes on the side ? use it very, very sparingly unless you're a seasoned chili warrior).
Chef Claire Handleman, formerly of ABC's The Chew, contributes Laab Pehd, a minced duck salad with sawtooth coriander, mint, cilantro, scallions, toasted rice powder, and chili, Yahm Kor Mooh Yahng, a pork neck salad made with cucumbers, Asian celery, onion, lime, and chili, and Neua Namtok, a tamarind-marinated grilled hanger steak salad.
Bottom line: it's quality Thai, and an overdue addition to the neighborhood dining scene.