Jo and Arnon Kaseter have opened Fish Cake Factory, their fish-centric Thai restaurant in the space formerly occupied by Zeitoon on Fourth Avenue. The chef is a cousin of Arnon's, Vimonsri Wongjaraen, who has been running the kitchen at Bai Tong. Salmon croquettes, Phad Thai, assorted curries and spring rolls are fairly standard, but a couple of items on the menu will attract adventurous eaters, including ginger-steamed fish, trout salad, and, above all, Tod Mun Pla.
The Tod Mun cakes are made with a product called ladyfish paste, blended with red chili paste and kaffir lime, with some sliced beans thrown in for crunch. What is ladyfish, you ask? It's also known as Poor Man's Tarpon and Spanish Hogfish (no help at all there), a sleek but bony, 20-pound animal that swims in warm, shallow tropical waters. It's harvested off the coast of Florida and in many parts of Asia. You won't find ladyfish in most fish markets, though, because it's too bony (for human consumption, anyway) unless it's ground up and made into paste.
And if you think that it's gross to eat ground fish, a reminder: the exquisitely elegant French delicacy known as quenelles de brochet, a fluffy mousse of white fish, is also made of fish paste, brochet being a truly ugly pike-perch. The Tod Mun version is chewier, denser and spicier than a French quenelle, but no less tasty. At $11.95, it's a shareable lunchtime platter. Or you can sample the whole range of fish cakes for $16.95.