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A delectable night in Hell’s Kitchen: Celebrating the holiday season with an Asian-inspired twist at OBAO

by Kristin Tablang Photographed by OBAO's Clay Pot Catfish
Thursday, December 12, 2013
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On Tuesday night, I had the incredible pleasure of attending OBAO’s Holiday Preview Dinner. It showcased a sampling of the Thai-Vietnamese eatery’s signature dishes, as prepared by Chef Preyanet Pongsuwan.

The exclusive event was held at OBAO’s newest location, along Ninth Avenue in Hell’s Kitchen. It attracted a terrific crowd of media who’s whos, including New York Post writer Max Gross, and newly promoted editorial director of Thrillist, Ben Robinson. The president of Douglas Elliman Capital Mortgage and head of Chace Restaurant Group, Ace Watanasuparp, was also in attendance.

The restaurant boasted a simple yet elegant ambiance, and seemed to glow by the light of the chic wooden lanterns that hung from its high ceiling. The effect offered a laid-back, rustic atmosphere with a modern Oriental touch.

The celebration kicked off at OBAO’s quaint bar, where invitees mingled with one another as they sipped on an array of creative cocktails. The Bruiseberry Mojito – a mixture of rum, lime juice, and an assortment of berries – was my “poisonous” pick (needless to say, it was absolutely delicious!), though most guests opted for the Zipang Sparkler, a combination of sparkling sake, strawberry liqueur, and elderflower liqueur.

The rest of the night unfolded on the second floor, in a cozy space reserved for private affairs. Dinner was heralded by a highly imaginative and luscious libation: vodka infused with lemongrass, tamarind, pepper, and pandan leaves – a clear nod to Southeast Asian flavors.

The first appetizer presented was a Vietnamese White Pork Sausage Salad topped with hoisin dressing. It was a fine start, though I believed subsequent dishes — namely, the Sambal Calamari, followed by spare ribs on a sugar cane skewer — easily outshone it.

As for the entrees, OBAO’s innovative take on Pad Thai (possibly the most popular Thai dish in the U.S.) was quite refreshing; it used strings of green papaya as a substitute for regular rice noodles, making the dish completely carb-free. I enjoyed the Spicy Lemongrass Kalbi Short Ribs immensely as well; they were sweet and savory, buoyed by just a touch of heat.

The Pho Bo – traditional Vietnamese soup with sliced rare beef, braised brisket, and rice noodles — was simply okay (to be honest, I’ve had better), and the Clay Pot Catfish was a bit too peppery for my taste — but all in all the entire meal was quite fantastic.

In short, the night was an absolute delight . . . one filled with delicious food, brilliant drinks, and wonderful company, sweetened even more by a couple of yummy French macaroons nestled in a take-home box from SPOT Dessert Bar — OBAO’s sister venue on St. Mark’s Place.
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