When Manadsanan Sutipayakul opened Plant Love House in Elmhurst in 2014, the playfully named cafe in the shadow of the Long Island Railroad distinguished itself from the numerous Thai competitors in the area mainly in style, though its use of ingredients like pig blood telegraphed its seriousness where food was concerned. That place later closed to allow Sutipayakul and her crew to concentrate on a new Prospect Heights outpost, Look by Plant Love House, a moniker that went even further to suggest the cafe’s modern outlook, or maybe just a hippie on acid wandering in a greenhouse. Not long after, the family launched Mondayoff in Kensington, once again demonstrating a strategy that targeted Brooklyn neighborhoods with young populations underserved by Thai restaurants.
Now a third establishment has debuted in a quiet corner of Williamsburg. The wildly named Noods n’ Chill opened recently a block north of Pies ‘n’ Thighs at the corner of Driggs and South 3rd. The colorful tiled dining area in front has only 13 seats gerrymandered in the cramped space, looking into a larger kitchen where the staff seems to be having a great time. Those cooks and counter folks often include Sutipayakul’s family, including her three children Benjaporn Chua, Preawpun Sutipayakul, and Jirawat Sutipayakul.
The group has resolutely stuck to its pig blood, and the dining public should be grateful. Boat blood noodle ($12) is a wild ride of a dish, bobbing with pork balls, generous gobbets of pork, wiggly rice noodles, scallions, and crushed peanuts. The blood imparts a dark red color, enriching rather than flavoring, and the soup is pleasantly sweet. For an extra $2, receive a bowl of crunchy pork cracklings to dump in the soup.
The most spectacular departure from the menu of the previous establishments is offered only on weekends. On those days, a hot reservoir of thin rice porridge called khao tom gui sits with a ladle on the sideboard. Pay $15 and get an unlimited serving. It wouldn’t be good on its own, because it really is just a long-cooked gruel with little flavoring. But with the bowl, you’re also allowed to pick two sides from a roster of 10, which I was instructed to put in the porridge if I liked.
As one of the kids told me, “Our great grandparents were Chinese immigrants to Thailand. They lived in Bangkok and this is what they ate.” Indeed, the side dishes are simple, somewhat reminiscent of the Chinese-American food invented here by immigrants who lacked familiar ingredients and substituted available ones. Of the two sides I selected, the one that was mainly lettuce and sweet Chinese sausage was especially good. Other choices include “spicy salted duck egg salad” and preserved cabbage omelet. The city has never seen this perspective on Thai food before, and the flavors are simple and wonderful.
Really, the other food I tasted on two visits was almost all equally grand. Chicken wings are de rigueur on Williamsburg menus, and these salty, fishy, and sweet ones (three for $8) are not to be sneezed at. Pork larb ($12) is a bit different than at other places. Here, instead of being dry, it’s soupy, laced with pungent lime and fried shallots, and spicy as hell at your request.
The pork dumplings (four for $8) are shaped like shumai, only bigger and attractively frilled, suggesting Japanese and Chinese influences on the food of Bangkok. Bedded on lettuce, which catches the juices, and slightly crunchy with a trace of carrot cubes in the filling and maybe some water chestnuts, they are some of the tastiest dumplings in Brooklyn. I also loved the pork knuckle, a bowl of skin, meat, collagen, and bones long braised in a dark sauce presented as a perfect luncheon dish with rice, tart dipping sauce, greens, and a boiled egg.
The only thing I didn’t enjoy was a toss of wiry egg noodles with slices of pork such as you might find in a Chinese charcuterie, plus a substantial amount of crab. The bamee poo moo dang was dry — the optional gooey egg might have solved the problem) — but it was also monovalent in its flavor. It simply didn’t have the richness and excitement of the other dishes I’ve tried.
But taken together, the upstart menu at Noods is an enthralling document, with snacks, noodles, soups, congee, salads, vegetarian specialties, set lunches, brunches, and side dishes, a host of mini categories destined to please even the pickiest Thai food fan. Oh, and there’s pad thai, too. 170 S. 3rd Street, at Driggs Avenue, Williamsburg