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Come to Queens to dine in Vietnam or Thailand. There are a number of Thai dining spots in Queens and now the first Vietnamese restaurant, Chaus, opened in October in Bayside. Its a delight having both a Thai and Vietnamese menu.
Chaus, vest-pocket sized, is small, cozy and full of charm. The ceiling, every inch of it, is covered with distinctly Vietnamese parasols, all white some large, some small. Adding to the southeast Asian feeling are a handful of white paper lanterns hanging by the service bar. Painted primitives, scenes of the Vietnam country side (houses on stilts, rice paddies and harvesting, water buffalo feeding) brighten one wall. The other is brick. Table tops, too, have distinctive, hand painted borders.
The service is all smiles, and isnt that nice.
Nearly 10 years ago Miss Chau came from Vietnam. Now she is chef/owner of Chaus with a Vietnamese cook and a Thai cook. Her specialty is soups for two and grilled Vietnamese dishes with chicken, pork, beef or shrimp over Com (rice), Bun (vermicelli) and Bahn Hoi (angel hair). Her salmon hot and sour soup with fresh tomatoes, tamarind, pineapple, okra and scallion was nothing short of sensational. The amount of salmon, unbelievable. The pineapple, a refreshingly sweet accent. The okra tidbits crisp perfection. But beware it is hot! (Note that the menu rates its spicy level *****. We ordered medium but all three of us now recommend mild.) By all means try it. And theres also a shrimp version.
As for appetizers, the shrimp summer roll, shrimp wrapped in crackling rice paper with vermicelli and peanut sauce on the side is a taste treasure. The delicacy of the dish, the hint of mint that says Southeast Asia, makes it appealing. The Vietnamese spring rolls are cold with a thick rice paper covering stuffed with pork, crab and carrot plus a dipping sauce. The menu lists crispy stuffed squid but chewy, very chewy, is a better description. Pork, crab, mushrooms and carrot is the filling and they are served on glass noodles.
Another must is Chaus entree-sized seafood fried rice. The omelet covering lifts the dish from ordinary to the gotta try category. And theres a perky tuft of mint dead center for a new-to-the West visual. The fried rice has the usual peas and carrots, but at Chaus there are whole shrimp, scallops and squid buried in it, in addition to the omelet overcoat.
Dessert is a palate-pleasing assortment of tapioca pudding, fried bananas, caramel custard and a fruit lychee. Our tapioca pudding was studded with delectable tidbits of fresh, soft, young coconut which for my tastebuds is a combination hard to beat. When it comes to must trys, Chaus version of fried bananas wrapped in ultra-thin, ultra-crisp pastry and deep fried tastes terrific. Caramel custard came to Vietnamese cuisine during the period when it was a French colony.
Hot tea is poured from the moment you are seated. But even the beverage, both tea and coffee, has the Vietnamese/Thai stamp. Vietnamese coffee is exciting, and was a first for me. A tall glass topped with its own percolator is set before you. You pour it into a second tall glass with a layer of condensed milk on the bottom. Delicious. Chaus Thai iced coffee needs a bit of work. Ive had better. But the Thai iced tea is perfect.
Lunch anyone? Theres Vietnamese lunches of grilled chicken, pork, beef and shrimp dishes served with rice or vermicelli and a splendid array of main dish noodle soups: grilled chicken, beef ball, rare beef, cooked beef and a combo.
The Thai lunch features stir fries chicken, beef and pork over rice and two vegetarian dishes, one with basil, onions, bell peppers and garlic and another of mixed vegetables in curry-coconut milk. There are also four stir-fried noodle dishes and a fried basil rice.
Im looking forward to trying a number of dishes to taste and determine the subtleties of the two cuisines. Join me.
A charmingly parasoled, vest-pocket-sized Vietnamese/Thai restaurant. Walls a painted with scenes of country side. Fine Viet and Thai menus. Smiling service.
Shrimp Summer-Roll (crisp rice papers with shrimp/mint/salad/vermicelli/Vietnamese peanut sauce)...$3.50
Com/Bun Ga Nuong (grilled chicken on rice or vermicelli)...$7.50
Bahn Hoi Do Bien (grilled seafood with angel hair, shrimp, scallops, squid)...$15.95
Crispy Stuffed Squid (ground pork/crabmeat/carrot/ear mushroom/glass noodle)...$7.95
Chaus Fried Rice (chicken, pork or beef with diced carrot/peas/onion/meat--covered with omelet)...$7.50
Thai Vegetable Spring Roll (cabbage/carrot/glass noodles/ear mushrooms/plum sauce)...$3.50
Pla Ta Kai (crispy whole fish/lemon grass sauce)...$15.95
Shrimp Pad Thai (rice noodles, tofu, been sprouts/ground peanuts/egg)...$8.95
Fried Banana (banana wrapped in paper thin pastry, deep fried)...$3.50
Banh Flanc (caramel custard)...$2.50
Cuisine: Vietnamese & Thai
Hours: L&D 7 days
Service: All smiles
Location: Cross Island. Between 169th St & 20th Ave
Credit cards: Visa & Master card
Dress: Neat casual
Private parties: To 30
Off-premise catering: Yes
Noise level: Fri & Sat low
Handicap access: Yes
©2004 Community Newspaper Group
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