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Chao Thai - Elmhurst, NY

Chao Thai - Elmhurst, NY
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  • Chao Thai - Elmhurst, NY

    Post #1 - November 20th, 2011, 2:21 pm
    Post #1 - November 20th, 2011, 2:21 pm Post #1 - November 20th, 2011, 2:21 pm
    While Chicago's Aroy Thai, TAC Quick, and Sticky Rice continue to thrill me, I was blown away by Chao Thai. Everything we had featured bright, clean, exciting - and occasionally searing - Thai flavors. I wish I knew Thai food better and could offer up more commentary on the style (to contrast to Chicago's top spots), but I'll just say that it's different, and would be a welcome addition to my regular rotation if it were more convenient.

    Unfortunately my cell phone pictures don't do justice to the food - hopefully someone else will eat there and snap better pictures soon.

    Raw crab salad
    This was a phenomenal way to start the meal. Searingly hot, with clean flavors. The bright, oceany flavor of the raw crab managed to peak through the heat.

    Soured pork ribs
    Chewy, fatty, salty, sour, meaty! These little nuggets were fermented then fried - great to gnaw at.

    Som tum
    Well done, though it seemed a bit redundant next to the raw crab salad.

    Fried cress and seafood salad
    Very similar to TAC's crispy on choy, though with a wider variety of seafood.

    And then the surprise hit of the night...

    Steamed fish in lemon sauce
    When I first walked in to the restaurant, I saw this on someone's table and commented to a dining companion that it looked good. When we read through the menu, we discussed it, but decided that steamed fish sounded boring. When finishing up our order, I asked the waiter if we had missed any highlights - the first thing out of his mouth was "steamed fish". I'm so glad we added this on - it was the best steamed fish prep I've ever had. The fish was good - tender and clean - but it was the pungent, sour, and spicy sauce that was addictive. Every fish deserves this as its fate.

    Also eaten, but not pictured, were chou chee curry over fried softshell crabs (good, but no where near the softshells with green curry at Sripraphai), and pad prik khing which had perfectly-fried chunks of pork belly and still crunchy beans.

    Jackson Heights/Elmhurst continues to amaze me with its wealth of food options. Last year we did a full-on food crawl, hitting Thai, Cuban, Ecuadorian, Indian, Colombian (and probably others... I don't remember) all in one short afternoon. This foray in to the neighborhood was shorter, with only Vietnamese, Thai, and Chinese, but just as memorable. It's got to be the most diverse, dense, food area in the country.

    Chao Thai Restaurant‎
    8503 Whitney Avenue
    Flushing, NY 11373-3646
    (718) 424-4999

  • Post #2 - November 20th, 2011, 10:32 pm
    Post #2 - November 20th, 2011, 10:32 pm Post #2 - November 20th, 2011, 10:32 pm
    Thanks dansch for posting the pictures.

    That raw crab salad definitely brought it. It being the heat, acid, and funk I expect out of the best Thai food. The flavor was bracing and certainly whetted the appetite for the tasty bites to come.

    That fried cress salad was outstanding. As good as the best I've had at TAC or SriPraPhai.

    For me, the prik khing was in no means an also-ran dish. This is a standard on other menus, but this was the best version I've had period. The pork belly was, as stated, fried perfectly. Crispy on the outside and warm and juicy on the inside. And the green beans were absolutely spot-on, both vivid green and crunchy crisp. This is a simple dish, but it showed a lot of attention to detail that took it above other versions I've tasted. To me, this dish showed me that the kitchen was really humming and the care they took with each plate they sent out.

    The steamed fish deserves every superlative. Looked fine, sounded boring. But we were in great hands when we listened to our enthusiastic waiter's recommendation. The fish was done just so and was bathed in the most aromatic, flavor popping garnishes/sauce. The taste just popped with each and every bite. We picked it very clean.

    Incidentally, I mentioned the enthusiastic service. There was no need to convince anyone that we really wanted certain dishes, and no hesitation about serving it to us spicy either.

    Chao Thai is definitely the real deal.