Wookiee Hut Cuisine presents:
Bann Thai
Forest Hills, NY
718-544-9999

Review by Diana DeRiggs

There is a section of Austin Street that is bustling, busy, and somewhere the New York Times called "Little Madison Avenue." But there is a part of Austin Street that is kind of "warehouse district" if you know what I mean? More of Austin Street used to be like this, but with expansion of the shopping zone, it's become more "Medium Madison Avenue," and the storage area is shrinking. Even so, a place like Bann Thai can rent cheaply and renovate an old garage or medical office space to create a great environment for dining.

It's a converted garage, I think. The front wall of the restaurant is floor to ceiling wood and glass panels, which seems to indicate that it was once a big open doorway. You're greeted by an aquarium with neon blue water. (Don't worry, there are no fish in there -- yet), and flying wood and wicker sculptures flying from the ceiling -- they look like angels, actually. There are also puppet-like dolls on the walls, fresh orchids on the tables, fake banana and coconut palms here and there. The chairs are covered in gold and red silk printed with elephants. The place is brightly painted and panelled, and everyone seems to love it with gusto. There was a brisk take-out service, and we overheard several saying they'd picked-up and ordered-in food from here before and this was their first time actually eating at the restaurant. They seemed very happy.

The place actually looked rather Hindu ... I wouldn't have been surprised if it had been an Indian restaurant rather than a Thai one, but the table setting was Thai -- blue and white "date palm/netting" motif china and cutlery made of lighter gold-colored metal and wood. The Thai staff were helpful (the menu includes a glossary of general terms), the food prepared well, and the portion size was good (not bloated, not skimpy). Like Chinese restaurant meals, your food is brought out on a serving plate for sharing, if you like.

We decided to order some Thai standards, just to see how they measure up, and also some things we haven't ordered before but had made elsewhere, again, to see how they measure up. Springrolls and fried wontons (minced pork and chicken), served with sweet chili-basil-citrus oil, hot and sour noodle soup (huge bowl, with rice noodles and shrimp), tofu tam yun (clear broth soup with mushrooms, tofu), tofu ma keur (japanese eggplant, tofu, basil in ginger sauce), pla jean (whole snapper steamed with mushrooms, onions, ginger sauce). For dessert, the waiter convinced us to get fried bananas with ice cream -- the bananas were wrapped in spring roll wrappers and deepfried.

It was much milder than we are often lead to believe about Thai food, quite sweet, lots of fresh basil chiffonade throughout everything. I love basil, so that's fine by me. The tofu/vegetarian dishes were rather bland, but good. I think it would be a good summer meal. The steamed fish was awesome, and the waiter did a double take at our neat little pile of thoroughly clean bones. The appetizers and dessert were so crispy that they broke into shards when biting... better to pop the whole piece into your mouth and chew well. We're going back for the soups -- the tofu tam yun was good, and the noodle soup excellent. Too bad the bowls were shaped less like woks and they gave us normal shaped spoons -- very hard to drink enough soup before the main course arrived.

Overall, the place wasn't really inexpensive, but not too pricy. That huge meal for two was under $80; the appetizer sized soups are as little as $2.95, and the main dishes averaged $15, and no more than $20. We simply pigged out after a long day at the office! A nice place to "decompress" or to go on a casual date!


Disclaimer: The opinions and observations noted are the property of the author. Neither Wookieehut nor any associates makes any claims or lucre from the posting of this report or review. This webpage is presented by Wookieehut.com. Enjoy!