Any time I’m looking to get dinner before or after a Broadway show, I head to Hell’s Kitchen rather than eating at one of the flashy (and overpriced) establishments in the Times Square/central Midtown area. The walk is short and you get much better value for your money.
A few weeks ago, I went to Matilda the musical with a friend. He had been wanting to see it, and I was initially ambivalent because I thought it would be too “kiddy”. In the end, my goal to see every musical I can while I’m here (you don’t get it…I’m obsessed) prevailed, and it turned out to be an excellent decision because Matilda blew me out of the water. It’s probably one of my favorites I’ve seen so far, which is saying a lot, and that was completely unexpected. So there’s my unwarranted recommendation to see Matilda that I just had to throw out, and now on to the real star of this post, OBAO.
After the show, my friend and I wanted to eat an Asian restaurant for dinner, and we decided to give OBAO a shot. OBAO is South East Asian food, focusing on Vietnamese and Thai fusion comfort food, and they’ve even made it into the Michelin guide a couple times.
The interior is modern and open with lots of hanging lantern-like lights hanging from the ceiling and wood accents throughout the large space. We ordered the grilled Japanese eggplant to start, and I chose the pho bo, adding the extra beef balls, as my entree. Okay, I know what you’re thinking and let’s just get it all out there. They aren’t actual beef balls! They’re just beef meatballs. Generally speaking, Asian meatballs differ from the European meatballs you’re probably familiar with on subs and spaghetti and the like because they have a smoother texture due to the way the meat is pounded rather than minced. Glad we got that settled. 😉
The eggplant was outstanding. I had never had eggplant of the Japanese variety before, so I’m glad my first try was a such a success. It was meaty, tender, and a great vehicle for the tangy sauce with chili, shallots, herbs. I picked the pho bo because it came recommended (from the menu that is. There was a little note by it!), and while I was eating it, I realized that it was the first time I’ve had pho in the city. Crazy! I used to eat it all the time back in Texas, so this is something I’ll have to remedy. This pho came with beef brisket and rice noodles in a ginger-anise beef broth. As routine with other places that serve the dish, my soup came with bean sprouts, jalapeños, and lime on the side to add as I pleased. The pho was heartwarming and satisfying, but man, I just really wanted more of that eggplant. Go figure!
If you happen to work around the area, OBAO also does a lunch special where for $8 you can get an entree and appetizer between noon and 4 pm every day. If not, the atmosphere of the place is perfect for dinner, and you can make it a late one too because they’re open to 11 pm on weekdays and 1 am on the weekends. Keep the party going late night at OBAO!
Grilled Japanese eggplant, pho bo with beef balls
647 9th Ave
New York, NY 10036