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Thai House

53 W. Main St. Smithtown, NY 631-979-5242

A Thai spirit house sits on a ledge

(Credit: Doug Young)

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Type: Thai Price range: $$ (Moderate) Description:

Amphai Holmquist took over as chef-owner of this restaurant four years ago, adding lots of spark. Her sweet-sour-salty-spicy duck salad is a standout laced with apples. Fine, too, are drunken noodles with vegetables and a vibrant-hot shrimp Massaman curry. 

Hours: Lunch, Monday to Friday, noon to 2 p.m.; dinner, Monday to Sunday, 4 to 10 p.m.

 Vibrant and satisfying Thai cuisine in a serene setting.

On my first visit to Thai house in Smithown, I waited 40 minutes for a table and then close to an hour for the first course to show up. "It's coming, it's coming," our server muttered when, halfway into the lag, I looked at her inquiringly.

Had the food not been so deeply satisfying, I probably would not have returned -- which would have been my loss. For, several weeks later, that negligent waitress had been replaced by a young woman who proved a real pro. I returned yet again.

"Should I make that dish extra-spicy or just bring you some hot sauces on the side?" the newer-better waitress inquired of my husband, whose predilection for the fiery she recalled from the previous visit. Thoughtfulness like that can turn a fledgling restaurant into a keeper. Of course, food figures prominently, too. I was impressed with the vibrant tom yum soup (Thai hot and sour brew), which I tried once with shrimp, once with chicken. A crunchy crab spring roll sported an exterior of fried shredded taro that crackled under the tooth. Boned chicken wings stuffed with a ground chicken and glass noodle mixture made for a compelling, if slightly spongy, dish, while grilled chicken satays were tender and smoky, paired with a velvety peanut sauce. On a particularly warm evening, the yum nur (a salad with grilled marinated beef) delivered just the right cool-hot jolt. Only the bland, milky tom kha gai (chicken coconut soup) fell short. Twice.

It was a good thing my husband told the waitress not to ratchet up the spice level of his pad kra tiem (chicken with black pepper and garlic sauce), for, to my palate, it was exactly on target -- peppery but not searing. An assortment of chili sauces and condiments, served on the side, allowed him to play around with the ignition level. A subtle undercurrent of heat sparked a friend's sweet-tart duck with tamarind sauce. I thought the chef packed lots of nuance and complexity into the Penang curry with chicken, made with string beans, basil and coconut milk. I'd also order the basil prikking again, just to savor the fragrant intensity of the Thai basil infusing the lively stir-fry. But pad khing -- a saute of ginger, scallions, onions and mushrooms, which we got with calamari -- was undone by rubbery ringlets of squid.

My undoing was the pad kae mao -- spicy sauteed flat noodles with basil, onion, pepper and pork, a dish that played spicy overtones against soothing textures. I just couldn't get enough of it. A surprise showstopper turned out to be the relatively plain gai yang, deep-down flavorsome Thai marinated grilled half chicken served with sticky rice and spicy plum sauce.

Dessert is something I would bypass -- especially the weird Southeast Asian version of the Sno-Kone.

It would be wise, though, not to overlook this welcome Thai newcomer.

Reviewed by Joan Reminick, 9/16/05.