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Dining Out: New restaurant in Douglaston good site of trendy Thai cuisine

THAI EATERY

242-03 Northern Blvd., Douglaston

224-8666

By happenstance, I was waiting for a bus on the corner of Douglaston Parkway and Northern Boulevard as an architect and presumably the new owner were discussing the renovation of a small restaurant there. In its former lives, it was Chinese and most recently a Japanese/Chinese and in both lives, largely takeout.

What has emerged is a small, charming white-tablecloth restaurant which appears so much more spacious and elegant. And it’s Thai!

Thai Eatery is owned by a Manhattan consulting engineer whose best friend during his Manhattan College years lives in Douglaston. His wife, who comes from a restaurant savvy family, is manager.

The new look is: one wall brick, ivory tile floor, wainscoting below the chair rail, coral above, matchstick bamboo blinds keeping the sun at bay. A mulberry wall hanging (a woven cloth once draped around a Thai maiden’s waist) hangs on the far wall. Above the bar in the corner on mahogany shelves.

The menu lists Appetizers, Soup, Thai Curries, Sauteed. Seafood, Vegetarian, Fried Rice and Noodles. But first, let me tell you about the Thai coconut drink.

It’s almost like having a fresh young coconut. By all means first timers should ask to have it served unopened in the can. Here is state of the art packaging. Remove the printed cellophane wrapper and you’re holding a white plastic “can” with straw and mini-fork for spearing the good-size pieces of soft young coconut submerged in fresh-tasting coconut water. (Imagine! A chap who once cut up moon rocks later described it to a chap who designs submarines.)

Or order Thai iced tea for a dinner drink — it’s intriguingly different. And so is the Thai iced coffee. Both are great to have handy if dishes marked “mild spicy” seem spicy.

Next, let me dive into an explanation of Thai curry. Thai curries are a world apart from the Indian curries. They’re cooked with coconut milk and with different herbs, spices and curry paste — red, green or yellow. There are five selections on Thai Eatery’s menu. And you have a choice of beef, chicken or shrimp with each. That makes 15 possibilities. One is prepared with sliced bamboo shoots and basil leaves in a red curry or green curry. Another is prepared with onion, potatoes and green peas in a yellow curry. Mussamun is made with onions, potatoes, peanuts and fried shallots in a tamarind curry. Panang is prepared with basil leaves in a panang curry. Mine was amazingly light and lovely.

Another edible challenge: I’d like to fork into Thai Eatery’s nine fried rice and noodle dishes (also with a choice of beef, chicken or shrimp). Want to join me for a tasting party? It comes as fried rice or with pineapple or curry or basil leaves and hot pepper.

We tried for the appetizer — spinach and vegetable dumplings with a soy sauce and I would say sprinkled with onion bits. Surprisingly different. And quarter-size fish cakes marinated with Thai spices served with a sour cucumber sauce. Our soup of chicken slices simmered in coconut milk with mushrooms and lime juice, I’d certainly order again. I swooned over the som tum salad considered the most famous northeast dish with shredded raw green papaya, seasoned with tomato, green bean, chopped garlic, chili and lime juice, then topped with ground peanuts. Our vegetable dish, pad eggplant gra-prow with sauteed eggplant, tofu, basil and chili came with a sprinkling of chopped peanuts for crunch and goodness.

Incidentally, take-out containers are the newest, attractive black microwaveable ones. Rice comes in petite containers with handles and items like fish cakes in foil-lined bags.

I’ve discovered that my Thai curry and Thai fried rice and noodle taste-in was eminently doable. They are the heart and soul of Thai Eatery’s luncheon menu.

Thai is the new in cuisine. Have you noticed how restaurants are popping up all over? So, Thai one on! (Sorry, I couldn’t help it.)

THE BOTTOM LINE

Charming, cozy Thai eatery — the “in” cuisine. Delightful service. Fine food. Thai coconut drink, Thai iced tea, Thai coffee — all special. Wine and beer to be served.

CHEF’S CHOICE

Goong Gra Borg (4 fried shrimp stuffed with ground pork & Thai herbs, wrapped w/spring roll skin, served w/ sweet palm sauce)...$5.95

Curry Puffs...$5.95

Original Thai Curry: Mussamun (prepared w/onion, potato, peanuts, fried shallots, in tamarind currry)...$8.95 beef, chicken, $10.95 shrimp Pad Thai (most famous Thai noodle dish: stir fried rice noodles w/ bean sprouts, egg, shrimp, scallions)...$9.95

Crii Fed Kra Prow (crispy duck topped w/onion, scallion, basil, chili h garlic sauce)...$14.95

Crip Pla Lad Prig (deep fried red snapper, topped w/garlic h chilli sauce)...$15.95

Cuisine: Thai

Setting: Cozy, white tablecloth

Service: Charming

Hours: D 7 days. L M to F

Reservations: Yes

Dress: Casual Credit cards: None (Cash only)

Takeout: Yes (attractive containers)

Off-premise catering: Yes

Private parties: To come

Smoking: No

Noise level: Low

Handicapped access: Yes

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