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Best Thai restaurants

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Arharn Thai

Restaurants Thai Astoria

Here’s one for your short list of local (or worth-the-trip) Thai eateries. Arharn is Thai for “food,” and the dishes are as uncomplicated as the name. Ingredients are sliced, diced, wokked, tossed and sauced with rugged confidence. Chicken-coconut soup is thick and meaty, but be prepared: If you ask for it hot, you’ll get it fiery. Crunchy fried chunks of meat are drenched in a gingery lime bath for duck salad. Soft-shell crabs, when available, are sautéed in garlic; complement them with a noodle or curry dish. For dessert, try the lychee or durian ice cream.

Arunee Thai Cuisine

Restaurants Thai Jackson Heights

Only lovers of hellaciously hot food can handle what Arunee’s menu calls “medium spicy.” Chili peppers are sprinkled on top of many dishes, including a superior yum nuea salad with succulent pieces of beef, and yum pla murk, tender squid mixed with celery and lemongrass. More delicate tongues can rest easy with the rich, mild panang chicken-and-vegetable curry.

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Ayada

Restaurants Thai Elmhurst

The menu of this pretty little Thai restaurant attracted foodies citywide when it opened last year: Not only does it span the culinary regions of Thailand, but it includes some Japanese twists, too, thanks to the owners’ experience working in Bangkok’s Japanese hotels. Even if you skip the sushi-inspired dishes (like the now-famous raw shrimp appetizer), the spicy, incredibly complex curries (around $7) are still a radical departure from most pad thai–pushing joints.

Kittichai

Restaurants Thai Soho

Graceful, candy-colored orchids, suspended in water-filled glass jars at the entrance, are an apt introduction to one of the city’s finest Thai fusion restaurants. Chef Ian Chalermkittichai’s savvy interpretation of Thai cuisine is at once elegant and playful: The cold beef salad, heaped onto a banana leaf speared with a toothpick, receives crunch from a light coating of roasted rice powder; monkfish tingles with ginger curry; and banana spring rolls are drizzled in a burnt-honey sauce. The garden-style dining room features low, wood-slat ceilings, billowing Thai-silk, and flickering white candles in glass bowls floating gently on a central pool, as trance-like instrumental tunes are softly piped in. It’s enough to lull you into deep meditation—until the next bite of wok-sizzled chili sauce.

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Kuma Inn

Restaurants Filipino Lower East Side

A clandestine second-floor location makes this dinner-only spot feel like a true find. Chef King Phojanakong channels his culinary pedigree (including stints at Daniel and Danube), along with his Thai and Filipino heritage, into elegantly presented small plates, such as an omelette studded with plump Washington Bay oysters, and hunks of seared ahi tuna luxuriating in a spicy miso vinaigrette. Desserts like the coconut ginger rice pudding, and a custardy twist on key lime pie made with kalamansi, might inspire you to keep your discovery close to your vest.

Pam Real Thai Food

Restaurants Thai Hell's Kitchen

Instead of potted palms and shrines to Buddha when you walk into Pam’s Real Thai Food, you’re more likely to see waiters trimming holy basil as they bop their heads to ’70s pop music in this lunchroom-esque Thai joint. That’s because rather than woo you with some overwrought design scheme, Pam is all about the food—authentic, restrained, fiery, flavorful food. Try outstanding lime-dressed green papaya salad studded with peanuts and salty dried prawns, chicken-stuffed curry puffs, or for the perfect balance of heat to subtlety, crispy fried duck topped with chili. Everything about Pam, from the casual but efficient service to the wallet-friendly price tag shows an ease that only the truly enlightened can pull off, distinguishing Pam’s real Thai food from the watered-down versions that dominate this part of town.

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Rhong-Tiam

Restaurants Thai Greenwich Village

The Vespa parked just inside this 60-seat spot from chef Andy Yang (Penang) announces that we’re about to take a tour of Bangkok—and it’s going to be fun. Though Yang is not a slave to tradition, he plays successfully with Thai technique. For instance, grilled beef carpaccio accompanied by jaew, a delightfully complex chili sauce, is a nouvelle take on Thai beef salad.

Sripraphai

Restaurants Thai Woodside

It’s not hard to find Thai food in New York these days. It’s just hard to find Thai food like this. Woodside’s destination eatery offers distinctive, traditional eats like catfish salad—lush, deep-fried fish with mint, cilantro, chopped cashew and lemon juice—or green curry with beef: a thick, piquant broth filled out with roasted Thai eggplant. The dining rooms, which sprawl out over two levels and a garden, are packed with lip-smacking Manhattanites who can be seen eyeing the plates enjoyed by the Thai regulars, mentally filing away what to order the next time.

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Wondee Siam II

Restaurants Thai Hell's Kitchen

Chowhounds rhapsodize about both Wondees with an enthusiasm that borders on mania. At the sit-down sibling to the original take-out operation, the food is deliciously authentic—a welcome change from standard satays and noodles. Spicy fried catfish is loaded with red pepper, basil, kaffir leaves and slices of Thai eggplant, while Shrimp on Fire is simply a literal description: Six impressive jumbos are doused with rum-and-tamarind sauce and set aflame.

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