Wookiee Hut Cuisine presents:
Thai Pot
Forest Hills, NY
Review by SuSu, MaceVindaloo, Pika-So

Thai cuisine is all the rage among "cheap eats" guides, but don't be fooled. Some are indeed inexpensive, but the menus tend to encourage you to pick several smaller dishes, and even at $4 to $10 apiece, it soon adds up so that you're still paying $50 for two. If you can control the urge to try lots of things, Thai can be a good budget option.

Then again, you don't want to go SO cheap that you end up bloated from the effects of MSG ... yeah, even though these cuisines purport to be "healthier" you do have to watch out for excessive MSG usage.

And finally, are the people who run the place really Thai? Often, they are not, having come from other places and opened a place with a Thai type name so they can capitalize on our general ignorance. We suppose they'd open an Ethiopian place if they thought people would come and spend money there! Another ethnicity is not a problem normally, but when you are looking for authentic Thai food and can't find any, you have to assume that maybe the non-Thais don't really know what it is they are trying to recreate?

But even if they are genuinely inexpensive, don't use MSG, and are really Thai ... sometimes the food is still not quite up to snuff. This may be unfair, in that we love Sripraphai with its marginal service and weird (but appropriate) lychee wine, and given the paucity of good reviews from Thai ex-pats, it may be unreasonable to suppose another place can come close. I did recall that I thought this place was good, but that was before we went to Sripraphai.

Thai Pot has a good combo appetizer consisting of eggrolls, fried tofu cakes, steamed dumplings and shrimp crackers, each with their own sauces, for $8. It's big enough for two or three. They also have a good fried banana dessert — chunks of banana wrapped in a wrapper, then deep fried so it's crispy, served with a honey-like syrup with sesame seeds. Their Tam Yam and Tam Ka soups are flavorful, but don't bother with their clear noodle soups; both times I've had it, it was bland. And as for vegetables in the soups, they all seemed to have sliced canned mushrooms in them, in copious quantities.

They have a lot of specials daily; we tried "chicken balls with basil" and it was good (and larger) than we thought it'd be. Off their standard menu, we tried drunken noodles, and papaya salad. We also tried pad thai and some duck eggrolls. They were all okay if salty and more sour than we'd like, and the fried things are actully quite good. All the dishes seemed to encourage drinking, like meal versions of bar snacks! And truth be told, after a while, all the dishes started to taste the same, as they had the same sourness and saltiness and hotness values. Their fried rice (we were desperate to replace the defunct Foraga at the time) wasn't particularly hot (thought it was okay), but it was sourish, garnished with something reminiscent of a Japanese pickled eggplant.

The place is very poorly lit — it's very dark in there, to the point that it's hard to read the menu (thus the oddly lit and grainy looking photos — if not for Photoshop, you'd only see black rectangles). We ended up reaching across to another table which had a tiny spotlight over it. We fumbled our way to the bathroom, too. There are tapestry-looking things on the walls depicting street life in Bangkok (like a tuk tuk drawn on what could have been black velvet). There was also a flatscreen television showing Thai music videos, complete with subtitles in Thai. It meant that the dark space would be punctuated with light now and again, depending on the contents of the music video.

They also only take cash (not unusual for an inexpensive Asian-owned restaurant in New York City, actually), and put a cryptic quasi-English message on the front of their menu about how they charge 15% addition for eat-in guests only ... does that mean they automatically put a gratuity on the bill?

It's very clean and tidy, but seems to lack energy. And the place didn't seem to have a big audience. Maybe Forest Hills is not the place to open a Thai place? But we know from other examples, that if it's good and good value, the people will come! The pricing was so-so ... we ended up wishing we'd crossed the borough to that other Thai place for the same prices.

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