“My goodness, you are sweating like you just came back from a Tone House class!” My wife Jun exclaimed at me after I got the first scoop of duck salad at Ugly Baby, in reference to a popular sports conditioning class in Midtown Manhattan that I try to go to at least a couple of times a week (known as the “hardest” workout in NYC) to counterbalance all my restaurant journeys. Our experience at Ugly Baby, the latest project from an acclaimed Thai chef Sirichai Sreparplarn in Brooklyn, was terrifying…in a good way. During the entire time once we sat down, we just couldn’t stop sweating from the intensely spicy dishes at the restaurant. I was drenched by the time we walked out, and if not for two large glasses of sweet Thai iced tea, I’m not sure if I would’ve walked out of the door in one piece. Yet, the dishes that we tried, coming from different regions of Thailand, were all quite unique and delicious.
The menu at Ugly Baby is somewhat concise compared to the run-of-the-mill Thai restaurants but the dishes at the restaurant all sound really delicious. When we first spoke to the server while ordering from the menu, I boastfully said to him that Jun and I are Koreans and we know how to handle spices; maybe the server secretly told the kitchen to get the spiciest duck salad possible to teach me a lesson, but we have never had a spicier salad before. Everything was literally burning in my mouth, and I swear I could’ve breathed fire if I had five more scoops! Still, it was quite an addictive dish and we ended up finishing the entire thing!
My favorite dish of the night was a couple of simple looking chicken thigh skewers, not necessarily because it was the least spiciest dish during our meal (although by no means was it mild), but the texture of the chicken thigh worked quite beautifully with Thailand’s southern style spices. I wouldn’t mind having this dish for a snack at least once a week! When we told the server that we would order kua kling, a dry beef curry, he warned us, “Are you sure? It’s crazy spicy!” Indeed, the menu itself also had an ominous “brutally spicy” adjective to describe this dish. After the duck salad, Jun and I were very much afraid how we would hold up against this dish. Perhaps because of the initial shock, though, this one didn’t punch us in the gut with the spicy kick the way the duck salad did. After all that avalanche of spicy sensation, the red snapper in ginger and tamarind broth was quite a relief. I savored the flesh of the gently prepared fish, even more thanks to the aromatic broth that I got to add onto.
Ugly Baby doesn’t take reservations and the dining spice is relatively modest in size. Add the fact that it has quickly become a neighborhood favorite in Carroll Gardens with its funky décor and inviting environment, and it’s one of those places where you have to prepare for long wait times unless you show up earlier than the prime time for dinner. The restaurant still doesn’t have a liquor license yet and allows BYOB, so bring some bottles of beer or a nice bottle of crisp white wine to complement the meal. By now, Jun and I have been to at least dozens of different Thai restaurants but when it comes to a place that doesn’t hold back in the spicy department, I don’t think anyone can beat Ugly Baby. And despite the amount of perspiration that I had that evening, I still can’t wait to go back to the restaurant to try other dishes, hopefully with a bigger group next time.
- Creativity: 8.0/10
- Execution: 8.5/10
- Ingredients: 8.0/10
- Flavor: 8.5/10
- Texture: 8.5/10
- Value: 8.5/10
Address: 407 Smith Street, Brooklyn, NY 11231
Telephone: (347) 689-3075