Picking favorites often presents problems. If you pick a favorite color, suddenly every gift you receive for the next seven years is orange. If you pick a favorite movie or band, you open yourself up to judgment from all future dates, coworkers, and streaming service algorithms. If you pick a favorite child, you’re considered a monster. (Even if the younger one really is kind of a jerk). Sometimes picking favorites is morally problematic. But in other cases, like when eating at Ayada, it’s just too hard.
At Ayada, picking favorites is near impossible. By the end of a meal at this Thai restaurant in Elmhurst, Queens, your group may start debating which dishes are the best. Was it the raw shrimp with the perfect amount of garlic, chili, and lime? Or maybe the crispy catfish salad with mango? Someone else might argue that one of the curries or the fried whole fish were the winners. But then, wait, weren’t the drunken noodles also better than any others you’ve had in New York, by a long shot? And inevitably, someone will make a case for the pad thai, which is so much better than most that comparing them feels like a Major Leaguer competing in Little League.
Picking favorites at Ayada is like picking a favorite Beatles song: it’s too hard, and it won’t do you any good. Why pit “Let It Be” against “Yesterday,” when you can have them both, and dozens of others too? So bring as many people as possible, order enough food that you’ll have to go all Tetris on the table to fit everything, and the worst case scenario is you’ll go home with leftovers.
While you can’t really go wrong at Ayada, we do have some tips to maximize your experience. First, trust the highlighted dishes on the menu. Certain favorites are called out with photos and accolades they’ve received from various publications, and those dishes tend to be the ones you’ll want to send Valentine’s notes to. The panang curry really comes to life with duck in it, and the prik king (stir-fried red curry with green beans) with sirloin steak is something you both want on your table and burned into your memory forever.
Second tip: when you get to Ayada, bear right. The restaurant is made up of two storefronts that share a kitchen and serve the exact same food, but when you arrive from the street, you’ll pick which side you want to sit in. If there’s no room on the right, don’t worry. The left side is perfectly fine - it’s just that sometimes, it’s OK to pick favorites.
And with that in mind, despite our suggestions not to do so, we’re going to pick favorites in the Food Rundown below, by listing our favorite dishes in order. It’s going to be hard, and tears may be shed, but ranking things is both an essential part of the internet and of well, humanity at large.
There’s no other dish we’ve considered entering a domestic partnership with as much as this one. Topped with a garlic, lime, chili sauce, this dish is heroic, and you also won’t find it at most other Thai restaurants around town.
Drunken Noodles, on the other hand, are a dish you will find at most other Thai restaurants in town. But here, they make what is certainly the best version we’ve tried in this city. By a lot.
We tried the panang curry with beef once here, and that was very solid. We’ve also tried the red curry. Also very solid. But the crispy duck in the yellow panang curry? That’s the one you want.
The number one draft pick for for variety of textures and flavors, the Crispy Catfish Salad is not to be missed. Crunchy, crispy, sweet, acidic, onion-y, and… our company Style Guide says we’re not allowed to use that many adjectives in one sentence because it’s annoying, but trust us, there’s so much happening here and you’re going to love it.
Simply the best pad thai you’ll find in New York. It will make you quite sad about 90% of pad thai you’ve eaten in this city.
Some people go for the whole fish, some people don’t. Go for it here.
You can get this stir-fried red curry and green beans dish with any protein of your choosing, but much like the duck panang curry, the menu highlights a special version with rib eye. Follow the gospel of the menu and get this.