>> Thursday, October 2, 2008

103-18 Metropolitan Avenue
Forest Hills, NY 11375
(718) 544-4097

I did not, it should be noted, want to review two Thai restaurants in a row. But it was DudeMan's birthday, and the birthday boy gets what he wants: Thai. We went to Star of Siam, a little hole-in-the-wall on Metropolitan Avenue.

Let no one say that Forest Hills lacks Thai choices. I won't lie. I'd like to see some variety. I'm tired of Thai. I'm bored of Japanese. I'm sick of Italian. We in Forest Hills lost our only French restaurant. We have one tiny Greek place. There are only two American restaurants, Danny Brown and Bonfire, one of which needs an improved menu (I won't mention Bonfire's name). Still for all my complaints, Star of Siam is a good addition. They're relatively cheap and the food's very good.

Criticism first. The interior is Star of Siam's biggest failings, since the service was fine and I can't really complain about the food. It feels ultra cheap. This is not a restaurant that will ever draw diners to the area. The chairs look like they were stolen from a diner and the place is awash in fake flowers. Complete the picture with pink napkins, exposed piping, holiday lights glowing year round and paintings straight out of a Motel 6, and it looks like the dining hall of a retirement home. It's just this side of depressing. Actually, it's just that side of depressing.

But enough of that, let's get to the food.

I ordered a bottle of Thai beer, Shrink ordered a glass of Guwurtztraminer (don't ask me), Bro ordered a glass of Lychee Wine, which is like sherry, and DudeMan ordered a glass of Pok Dum, a fruity Thai wine. To start, I tried the Fried Tofu. No one in my family except me eats tofu, and I was determined to expose them. It was what it sounds like. Tofu. Fried. And then served with a sweet and sour peanut dipping sauce. And you know what? Everyone liked it, carnivores that they are. I don't think that they'll order it without me there, but they can never again say "ugh, I hate tofu". In keeping with the theme, I next ordered the Tofu Soup with Vegetables, a clear broth vegetable soup. The flavor came from the sheer volume of vegetables in the soup, rather that an ocean's worth of salt. While this won't compare, to many, with the flavor explosions of a coconut-based soup, it was a nice, light, pleasant dish that didn't fill you up or make you feel that you were eating soggy paper. DudeMan and Shrink said that it reminded them of their recent trip to Thailand.

DudeMan ordered the Curry Puff, a pastry filled with chicken and potato and curry sauce and served with a sweet cucumber dipping sauce. This was the best appetizer of the night. I've had curry puffs in plenty of other Thai restaurants and Star of Siam's ranks up there with the best of them. Meanwhile, both Bro and Shrink chose the same dish, the Mee Krob, a deep fried noodle dish served with shrimp and tamarind sauce. Literally, is was like eating a huge, pink Rice Krispie treat. Good, but weird. I can't imagine making a habit of eating this. Order it for two. There's no way that one person can finish the whole thing. The dish is about the size of half a bowling ball. Bro and Shrink ordered one each, which was a mistake.

My entree was the Ob Mor Din (pot roasted shrimp). Bean threads and shrimp served in a clay pot with ginger and vegetables. It's basically a shrimp stew with vegetables. and noodles Delicious, but huge. Actually, every single dish we ordered had to be doggy bagged home. This wasn't a spicy dish, and some may argue that it doesn't remind them of the curries and coconut dishes that are commonly associated with what Thai cuisine is here. But the Rents assure me that this was far more traditional than the pad thais and drunken noodles Americans usually order. Still this didn't stop them from ordering dishes that they did not get on their trip to Thailand.

Bro ordered the Shrimp Basil, stir fried shrimp with garlic, onion, basil and bell pepper. We were eating family style, sharing everything and everyone liked Bro's shrimp entree. It wasn't a spicy dish, and I'm really the only one in it who likes his foods nose-runningly hot. If you're more like them and less like me, this might well be the way to go. But for me, it seemed a wee bit on the generic side. DudeMan opted for the Kang Ped Yang (duck red curry), deep fried duck in a red curry sauce with coconut milk, basil, pineapple and bamboo shoots. This might have been the best dish of the four and I found myself picking off his plate more often than not. I love duck and this duck was relatively fatless and boneless. The sauce was perfect and there was just the right amount of crunch to the vegetables without them being raw.

And finally, Shrink chose the Kai Hin Ma Pan (chicken with cashews), stir fried chicken with cashew nuts, onion, zucchini, peas, bamboo shoots, bell pepper and in a soybean sauce. Again, there was absolutely nothing wrong with it, but it's a dish that you could probably get at virtually any Thai restaurant in the neighborhood, if not the city. It was tasty and won't disappoint, but I feel that with so many Thai choices, the restaurant has to have a hook. Authenticity should be Star of Siam's.

Can I see myself eating here again? Yes, definitely. But it would be on a casual, all-that-matters-is-the-food-and-the-company kind of a day. It won't be on a date.

One soup, four appetizers, five drinks, four entrees, plus tax and tip came out to around $160.


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