Wookiee Hut Cuisine presents:
Arharn Thai

Astoria, NY
718-728-5563

Review by Diana

A lot has been made of Thai food these past years, most especially about the 'balance of flavor sensations': sweet, sour, salty, hot. It's what makes it piquant, interesting, tasty. The mix of familiar ingredients in distinctively Thai combinations makes something apparently "new" out of what we see as "old." That's probably accounts for it's popularity, even in little towns.

Still, there's an awful lot of trying-too-hard Thai ... too bland, or too spicy, or too cute. It happens.

At first glance, this restaurant is a bit odd ... it looks like those living rooms you see in middle class subtropical places ... brightly colored, bit tacky, lots of "native art" on the walls. There are tables that look like there were taken from a cafeteria -- the type you buy 6 at a time at Costco. The chairs are like that, too.

But to our surprise, the food is fresh and good -- made by some elderly chefs in the blackened kitchen -- and they don't go superhot or superbland. It seems like food they'd make for guests who visited their home ... so the decor motif does fit, after all.

We had Tom Yum Goong in the "large size," which was served in a "Mongolian" soup pot (the type that looks like an angel foodcake pan). It was good -- a shrimp broth flavored with lime and lemongrass, with shrimp and mushrooms within, along with noodles. We also opted for Thai springrolls, filled with cabbage, crab and veggies in a thick, peanutty sauce. We were offered the option of steamed or fried ... those on Atkins diets asked for steamed, so they could remove the skins (so WHY bother ordering them???). They were really good, and being that I'm not on Atkins, I got the sauce-covered skins, which were really good!

I was on a duck thing, so I ordered Gaeng Ped Yang, that day's roasted duck special, served with curry, eggplant and coconut milk. It came with a fragrant jasmine rice served on the side. It was really remarkable, a bit hot, but not enough to hurt you (you can ask for the heat to be adjusted to taste). It cost $12.95, and I felt like I robbed them ... the half a duck had a crispy skin without being fatty or greasy and the sauce complemented it perfectly!

All in all, a good feed, even without considering the meagre prices (the soup was $9.95, and the spring rolls -- 3 of them, about 8 inches long each -- were $6.95). It's the type of place where you can go for dinner any and all nights of the week. They do present the food nicely, but because of the decor and the friendly waitress and the old cooks, it feels like you're an honored guest in someone's home. So this is likely excellent home cooking, Thai style. It cuts through all the "fusiony kitschiness" of Thai cuisine that tries too hard. Very good, and very refreshing!


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