My wife Jun and I love spicy food, but one restaurant we have mightily struggled with containing the heat in our taste bud was Ugly Baby which we had visited last in 2017 (see my review from the initial trip here https://kenscale.com/2017/11/28/ugly-baby/). Despite sweating like we had just run a full spring in the desert, however, we both really loved the authenticity of Thai cuisine coming from the kitchen, with uncompromising faithfulness to local flavor and texture without catering to the Americanized version of the country’s food. One day after our Saturday morning pilates class together, I suddenly had this huge craving for Thai food for lunch and asked Jun if she wants to check out Ugly Babyagain. It turned out to a very fulfilling trip, because after our lunch I can now confidently declare the best Thai restaurant in the entire New York City and that is UglyBaby.
On our first visit to the restaurant, while we were ordering food Jun casually told the server, “Don’t worry about the spiciness of the dishes we are ordering. We are Koreans, we can handle some heat.” We both have a theory that her remark irritated the server who then instructed the kitchen to prepare the food even more spicy than it was supposed to be served. That theory in our mind was seemingly on point when we tried the exceptionally spicy duck salad that made me chug a cup of iced tea to neutralize the heat last time. I was trembling before I put a scoop in my mouth, only to find out that the dish was very spicy but not unbearably so this time, and still a very delicious one. In addition to the duck salad, we ordered a couple of new dishes that were both absolutely winners.
I’ve had khao soi, the egg noodle curry soup popular in many Thai restaurants, before but it was difficult to remember a dish as good as the one from Ugly Baby (Uncle Boons came close). The egg noodle with beef shank in the rich and complex curry broth was absolutely sensational once the heat starts fading off from the taste bud. Even better than the khao soi was the fried turmeric sea bream. After seeing that we ordered two spicy dishes, our server recommended getting something a little milder for the third dish. We were both very glad we listened to her suggestion and ordered the fish which was not only expertly cooked but had the fried skin with turmeric spice that really gave a nice, complex flavor. Jun declared that she would carve the entire fish to the bones before we leave the restaurant (which she did) and we happily indulged in this magnificent dish.
The restaurant still doesn’t accept reservations so if you want to dine during the prime time for lunch or dinner, be prepared to wait a bit. Unlike last time, Ugly Babyfinally added alcohol with various beer and wine selections that actually seemed rather well-thought out to complement the spicy dishes well. After our lunch, Jun said she’s ready to elevate her score from 8.5 last time to 8.75, and I couldn’t agree more. All the accolades for Ugly Baby have come and gone at the end of 2017 and in 2018 (culminating in the top 10 Best New Restaurants designation in Bon Appetit magazine), but the restaurant is still hitting on all cylinders. I think it’s time I give the second ever KenScale All-Star tag to this awesome Thai restaurant and whenever we need a fix for Thai food after our Saturday pilates class, Ugly Baby will the first restaurant we will head to.
KenScale: 8.75/10 (Jun’s Score: 8.75/10)
- Creativity: 8.0/10
- Execution: 9.0/10
- Ingredients: 8.5/10
- Flavor: 9.0/10
- Texture: 8.5/10
- Value: 9.0/10
Address: 407 Smith Street, Brooklyn, NY 11231
Telephone: (347) 689-3075