You think I would have the good sense to steer away from Cobble Hill Thai food in a restaurant with a DJ booth. I shot down suggestions of Grand Sichuan House and Anselmo’s in the name of open-mindedness and the quest to give seemingly so-so neighborhood restaurants a fair shake. Now, I’m afraid my mind has been shut for good.
I had issues (actual screaming matches) with a scary, marathon-running, MBA know-it-all coworker from a few jobs back. She insisted Joya was the best Thai food she’d had in NYC and I wasn’t having any of that nonsense. But I was able to garner one of my favorite quotes that I’m positive I’ve mentioned many times before. Picture this being said in the nastiest, condescending, 5’1 tough office lady voice, “Have you even been to Thailand?!" Ok, you win, Brooklyn pad thai is totally the same as street food in Bangkok. Better, even.
And so I went to Joya. Hmm…I don’t know how to say this without coming across racist and/or elitist (and for the record, that dijon kerfuffle is utter crap. My family totally ate Grey Poupon on our backyard-grilled burgers in a blue collar suburb 20+ years ago. It was mainstream then, and certainly is now) but it’s a genuine question Why is Joya, a mediocre Thai restaurant in a gentrified, overwhelmingly white neighborhood, filled to capacity with Long Islanders (this wasn’t a judgmental inference based on the usage of dawtah and cah [that would be daughter and car], the two loud tables I was sandwiched between were talking specifically about Long Island and how far they’d driven into Brooklyn) and well, black people? I’m not all “Stay out of my neighborhood.” Frankly, you can have it. It’s more, “Why are you coming here for this restaurant?” Do they know something I don’t? Everyone seemed to be having a good time, so who am I to ruin their fun with my killjoy spirit?
And the food was barely passable. I didn’t even bother with photos. The chili basil mussels we started with were fine enough but the stir fries and curries were flat and flavorless, even more so than your typical Americanized Thai. I like “bad” Mexican and Chinese, but I can’t abide bad Thai because it doesn’t even translate into craveable greasy junk food (hard shell tacos, sweet and sour pork) it just ends up pale, bland and sad.
I tried to take the when in Rome approach, and maybe after a few glasses of Yellowtail Reisling, the fortyish woman next to me who’d clearly been downing cheap white wine all night, would cease hurting my spinal column with her shrillness. But there’s no ignoring deafening shrieks about farts, queefs and explicit sex acts (now, I really will get blocked by work filters) punctuated by maniacal laughter. There’s a time and a place, people. And this is coming from a loudmouth who likes to drink.
I freakin’ love New Jersey but Long Island scares the crap out of me. And now, so does Joya. No matter who tries bullying you into thinking this is good Thai food, do not listen. This is no time to be open minded. In an unprecedented move, I am downgrading the two shovel rating naively bestowed on the restaurant in 2003, when I was unfamiliar with the neighborhood, to one shovel. (5/15/09)
About what I expected from a Cobble Hill (or is it Carroll Gardens? I'm
still not sure what the border is-I'll venture to guess Union St.) Thai
restaurant. We ordered food to go, which wasn't a half-bad idea, seeing how
scene-y the place is. But is it scene-y or just attempting to be? I wasn't
so sure about the crowd. I'm starting to get a handle on Williamsburg hip
versus Cobble Hill hip, the main difference being a solid decade in age
discrepancy. You have to be in the right mood for the DJ booth dining
atmosphere. See, I can't even remember the food now. It was likeable, not
lovable. I'm not prepared to judge South Brooklyn (it really bothers me to
call the area south when it's not really south anymore) Thai yet, as I
haven't sampled enough. (11/1/03)
Joya * 215 Court St., Brooklyn, NY