After taking two steps into Song, the Thai
restaurant on Fifth Avenue, I wanted to back out the door. The
din of the place was deafening.
Like Joya, the popular Thai eatery in Carroll Gardens owned by Andrew Jerro and Ariel Aparicio, Song throbs with music. The bar and large dining area are outfitted in industrial chic: a hard cement floor, high ceilings with exposed pipes, and seating without pillows, which are all great surfaces to transmit, not absorb, sound. This kind of club-as-restaurant ambience obviously appeals to diners; since its opening in January Song has been doing a (forgive the pun) booming business.
To the eatery’s credit, the customers sitting in the dining area seem happy to shout to one another. Even a table of two couples in their 60s passed dishes and yelled amiably.
Maybe it’s me, or, I should say, us. I’m soft spoken, and when my husband is relaxed, his voice dips so low I sometimes wonder if there’s sound coming from his lips at all. So, we can’t "do" loud places.
Song does provide an alternative for the volume-challenged - and it’s a nice one. Behind the restaurant there’s a large, outdoor area with tables, and next to that is something I haven’t seen anywhere: a patch of lawn with on-the-ground tabletops and mod floral pillows for seating. After their meal, some of the diners eating close to nature sprawled on the grass; a few children meandered about enjoying the novelty and not bothering anyone.
Thankfully, no music is piped outdoors, so, aside from laughter and the hum of conversation, it is blessedly quiet.
There are two positives about Song that take some of the sting out of its indoor noise assault: The portions are large enough for two (and sometimes more) to share, and nothing on the regular menu is over $8.
No credit cards are accepted, but with prices like that, forking out the few dollars for the meal shouldn’t be an issue.
In such a stylish setting, you’d expect a suave house cocktail. Song’s drink is the mango martini, a lovely looking, frothy concoction served in a short-stemmed glass.
While the potion had a delicate mango flavor, it typified the problem I found with much of Song’s cuisine: it was too sweet.
A touch of oversweetness marred an otherwise terrific version of "Tom Ka Gai," the coconut soup with chicken and mushrooms. The broth was creamy and loaded with tender slices of white meat and big chunks of button mushrooms. Even a heaping appetizer of fresh but slightly gritty mussels, strewn with slivers of crisp green and red peppers, could have used more acidity to balance a too sweet garlic sauce and a little less salt.
While it leaned toward the sweet side, the rich coconut curry sauce that enveloped pieces of chicken breast in "kang panang gai," was loaded with basil leaves, perfumed with the gingery bite of "galangal" (a root similar to ginger but more intense) and packed a sneaky hit of heat from Thai chilies.
Fresh, large shrimp, sauteed with mushrooms, chunks of peppers, and bits of soft cabbage, came alive in a sprightly fresh ginger sauce in the "koong pad khing."
I can’t fault a platter of big, chewy noodles topped with beef, "pad see yue." The meat was assertive enough to stand up to a pungent brown sauce laced with pleasantly bitter Chinese broccoli.
Big eaters at a small table add up to messy dining, which leads me to my one criticism about the service. It’s important that the dining surface be wiped intermittently, especially when dishes are being shared.
Our busboy whisked away our appetizers, leaving a smattering of sauce on the table. He returned with the entrees, plunked them atop the spills and walked away. After we’d passed the plates back and forth, their dirty, oily bottoms left the table’s top looking like a crime scene.
Still, Song’s great food - and prices - make up for its acoustic deficiencies. Maybe next time we’ll bring some earplugs.
Song (295 Fifth Ave. at Second Street in Park Slope) accepts cash only. Entrees: $6.95-$7.95. The restaurant serves dinner daily. For more information, call (718) 965-1108.