Located on an unassuming block of Court Street in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, sits a staple known to locals and tourists for having some of the best damn Thai in all of NYC: Joya. Hi, I’m Melody, aka Bino, and this is my first post for Wanna Fork. I will be bringing you the latest spots and the tried and true haunts of NYC’s 5 boroughs. You can follow my journey with the hashtag #EatWithBino… let’s begin!
My first visit to Joya was 5 years ago, when I first moved to New York from Connecticut, and I can happily report that I have dined there or gotten takeout at least monthly ever since. There’s a reason why this place is always packed and my frequent out-of-town visitors demand we eat there at least once a visit.
After a brutal day at my ‘real’ job (where my startup heads at?!) I met my boyfriend outside our apartment with original intentions of hitting up Moo Burger – which I promise will be subject of a future review. As I considered that my boyfriend is currently in his slow season and I would likely be paying the bill, I suggested we go somewhere cheaper. We both looked at each other and immediately said “JOYA!” a little too loudly and the hipster couple walking by us stared after us. If they knew Joya, which they likely do, they were probably just jealous.
Walking in to Joya is always an experience. Even though the facade is all glass, the dim lighting and foyer area make it hard to tell how packed it is. Just know that if you are wondering if Joya is busy and will have a wait, the answer is at least 90% of the time ‘yes’. Here we were, 6:30 on a Tuesday like old people, and we were put on a list for a table for 2 that was approximately 30 min long. While we waited, we hung out at the always beautifully decorated bar, where their bartender made us 2 strong and delicious Lychee Martinis. If your read about this place on Yelp or Google, you will see the bartenders brought up frequently, with good reason. This IS a place to get a good cocktail, and don’t fear if you don’t know what you want because they are a creative bunch. Joya also has a decent beer and wine list, for those of you who try not to turn up on a Wednesday…
When it was our turn, we were led to a table halfway though the restaurant to a table at the booth against the wall, a coveted spot. Because this place is always slammed, they have really filled up the space with tables and space is a premium here. If you are unlucky you will be sat in the middle of the restaurant, where your meal will be interrupted frequently by folks going to the bathroom, out to the back garden, or servers going to get food from the open kitchen.
The specials are usually very good at Joya and I’ve only had maybe 2 things that I didn’t love there. Considering how high my standards are and how often I’ve eaten there, that’s pretty amazing. My boyfriend and I weren’t in experimental moods last night, and ordered a few dishes that we know and love. the Thai Summer Roll was our first course. This is shrimp, tofu, Boston lettuce, carrots and scallions rolled gently in soft rice paper, served cold with a sweet chili sauce drizzled on top and spicy Thai mustard on the side with shredded carrots for dipping. It’s light and full of flavor from the chili sauce and mustard. It’s a smaller portion but at only $4.95, that’s what you would expect. It was perfect to take the edge off our hunger but keep us in anticipation of what was to come.
Our main course was simple: Beef Pad See Ew made with flat rice noodles, sliced steak, ‘brown sauce’ (it’s mainly oyster, soy, and fish sauces with some crushed garlic and sugar) and broccoli greens. This dish is great for people who like Pad Thai but want to try something new and are cautious. It’s not as sweet and nutty as Pad Thai, with the flavors being on the spicy and salty side and Joya does this dish very well.
We also got the “Koong Kratiam”, which is shrimp with a medley of vegetables (heavy on the cabbage, FYI) and a to-die-for I-want-to-swim-in-it light garlic sauce with rice on the side. If they sold this sauce by the bottle, I’d buy their whole inventory.
Both dishes come with a wedge of lemon, which I recommend using. There is something about the citrus juice that really enhances the flavors of these dishes.
With another round of drinks our total only came to $72, making this the least expensive dinner date in the history of New York City. or at least my relationship. We were also out of there and on our way home by 7:45, which means we had drinks, an appetizer, dinner and paid our check in 45 minutes after a 30 minute wait for the table. This gave us plenty of time to get home and continue our binge watching of Empire (#TeamCookie).
Good for – Cheapskates, small parties, and vegetarians. Must try – Koong Kratiam (see description above), Kang Gai – Chicken with eggplant, bamboo, peppers and carrots in a creamy red curry sauce. You will want to stick a straw in the broth and drink it, I promise.
215 Court St, Brooklyn