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Pete Wells Makes the Rare Trip to Elmhurst for ‘Compelling’ One-Star Thai Food

Thai Cook, a street food spot hidden in a Chinese restaurant, has great salads, the critic writes

Tiny, Bangkok street food restaurant Thai Cook nabs a one-star review from Times food critic Pete Wells this week for serving “compelling” Thai food out of a shared restaurant space at 81-17 Broadway, between Petite and Britton Avenues. Though many of the dishes are ones that could be found neighborhood restaurants around Manhattan, Wells writes that Thai Cook’s “riotous” twists are what make it shine.

Elmhurst is known for being a destination for lesser-known Thai dishes, but Thai Cook’s short menu features many more ubiquitous dishes such as panang and coconut-milk curries. The specialty, though, is its yum, a salad made of red onions, shallot, cilantro, and chrysanthemum greens. Yums are always served with Thai chiles, Wells writes, and occasionally, with hot dogs. Of the yum sai krok, translated as “sausage salad,” Wells says:

The sausage in question was skinny, pink and a little salty, like a hot dog, although it is in fact made by a Vietnamese butcher in California. I think it may be the saltiness that makes Thai Cook’s sausage salad so compelling, although I wouldn’t discount the fresh red and green bird’s-eye chiles that had been lightly smashed so that even if you avoided eating a whole one you couldn’t avoid eating some of its fiery shrapnel.

Wells also raves about an item on Thai Cook’s menu called “Yum What the Heck,” an unexpected mixture of egg yolk, sausage, squid, steamed mussels, and the uncooked claws of blue crabs.

Owner and chef Boonnum Thongngoen opened Thai Cook four months ago to focus on Bangkok street food. She is also the owner of Am Thai Bistro in Brooklyn, which features a more expansive and traditional menu.

Thai Cook shares a dining space with Chinese hotpot restaurant iCook Buffet. Because the two restaurants share a kitchen, Wells writes that Thai Cook does not have the gas burners, woks, and deep-fryers needed to make appetizers like spring rolls or fried tofu. Instead, go for the “slippery, thickish sheets of steamed tapioca and rice flours — ‘fresh crepe’ on the menu — folded over chopped pressed tofu with chives and splashed with a soy dressing,” he writes. One star.

Thai Cook

81-17 Broadway, Queens, NY 11373