Ma*Ya in the East Village
2 of the 6 of our group last night made the decision about where we should eat. Ethnic seemed like the way to go. We could share family style and it would be very low key. The spot I really wanted to go to was Kalustyan's restaurant in the 20's. I have literally tried to get there 4 times now and thought this would be the night. They are no under going renovations so I may never get there. So, we chose Ma*Ya.
The food is thai/pan asian. The owner is the chef. His family is all in the business. His partners, so he tells, have all been women and so he has a huge woman buddha when you walk in the door to represent his partners. One of his son's cooks next door at No. 1 Chinese, the other son is part owner in Hue and the father and owner if Ma*Ya used to cook at Rain.
All and all the food was mixed. Something were really good and others were ok but we had a great time. We all started with a sake caipirinhas which was really delicious. Lots of mint and I think lemon grass. To start us off the chef brought down big baskets of shrimp toast with a peanut dipping sauce. This was delicious. I could eat baskets of these and the sauce had the right amount of oomph.
For appetizers we had the spring rolls which I didn't have, the crispy ribs in a tamarind sauce which came right off the bone and had a good kick of spice. A tuna roll that was grilled on the outside. Conceptually interesting but the taste just wasn't there. The spicy green papaya salad was really good. The papaya was cut in long thin slices with a spicy fresh sauce. The salad had a nice bite and it was very refreshing. The last appetizer was a lettuce wrap that was served like sushi. I passed.
Dinner was all over the place. I had the whole grilled fish which was beautiful in presentation. He had already filleted the fish for you. He had deep fried the fillet and stuck them inside the deep fried fish that was wrapped in a circle. So, the presentation was really nice. The fish was presented over a mound of spicy green beans. The pork chop was cooked perfect and the mango sauce for dipping really completed the taste. Someone also ordered the skirt steak with a chili dipping sauce. Everyone said it was good. We also ordered the shrimp with eggplant in a curry sauce. This wasn't as good. The curry didn't have a lot of depth, it could have been much richer. Also, the eggplant and tofu dish wasn't that interesting either. The shrimp/eggplant and the tofu dish almost tasted the same which was disappointing.
The place wasn't busy. They played good music. It is basically a good local east village restaurant. I have a couple of favorites in the East Village that serve the same type of food that I'd probably go back to first such as Cyclo and Bao III but I really liked the owner of Ma*Ya, so maybe I'll be heading back.