Thai Coconut

Thai Coconut
(516) 900-1168, Wantagh


It’s not unusual or particularly attractive, yet the modest new 36-seat storefront Thai Coconut in Wantagh is popular and often packed. There are four reasons those seats are frequently filled: Food, prices, service and location. The food is tasty, prices are in the bargain basement category, the service is sweet and caring and the location across from the LIRR station doesn’t hurt a bit.

On a Friday night about a month after the restaurant’s February opening, a parade of LIRR riders and young locals looking for inexpensive eats poured into this barebones, plain Jane spot while the takeout counter was the scene of brisk activity. Seated at bare tables they perused the predictable menu, plunked down their BYO bottles of wine and proceeded to order a couple of dishes of spring rolls for $3.95 each, generous portions of pad Thai for $8.95, some Jasmine rice for a dollar, heaping plates of mango chicken for $10.95 and finished with three orders of long fried bananas crowned with honey and sesame seeds for $3.25 each.

Thai Coconut’s owner, in a telephone call prior to my visit, said there were five dishes that weren’t on every other Thai restaurant’s menu. That might have been stretching it a bit—one of them was chicken spring roll—nevertheless we ordered all of them, the spring roll, fried tofu, pork vegetable dumplings, black pepper fresh noodles and spicy Thai lo mein (the last two with beef or chicken). We proceeded to dive into the spring rolls, a bowl of that fried tofu, eight pork vegetable dumplings, the two noodle dishes, mango chicken, coconut jumbo prawns (the best dish of the night) and three orders of those fried bananas. The whole shebang cost $98 for six hungry diners.

Aside from the soggy, bland, half filled fried tofu nubbins, with their anemic peanut sauce ($5.25), there were no strikeouts. The standard chicken-flecked spring rolls were crisp and delicate ($3.95), the eight pork vegetable dumplings tender, tasty and admirably moist ($6.50).

The hot and spicy symbols on the menu mean what they say, as is illustrated by both the black pepper fresh noodles and spicy Thai lo mein with their onions, scallions, sweet and sour sauce and discernable kick ($8.95). Tamer is the abundant, diverse portion of mango chicken and the buttery fried coconut jumbo prawns, miraculously soft and light.

But don’t limit yourself to the few dishes that are not duplicated on every Thai menu in the universe. Some of the best picks here are the golden oldies available elsewhere.

An appetizer of four gang sarong, or shrimp wrapped in deep fried noodles, generates an interesting, crisp exterior, soft interior contrast ($7) while six curry samosas, or deep fried crescents, are filled with a welcome diversity of potatoes, onions, carrots and mushrooms sprinkled with curry powder ($6.50). Garlic chicken earns both its hot and spicy designation and its garlic listing ($9.95). Finally the pad Thai, Thailand’s signature dish, is one of the more respectable versions on the Island. It’s neither too sweet nor too spicy.

Desserts are the usual three unnecessary suspects: Fried banana, coconut cake and mango and sticky rice.

Photos by Stephen Lang

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richard jay scholem

Richard Jay Scholem practically invented the Long Island restaurant culture through 800+ reviews of the region's eateries both on radio and in print over the last 30 years. He is a former New York Times Long Island Section restaurant reviewer, has contributed to the Great Restaurants of...magazines and Bon Vivant, authored a book, aired reviews on WGSM and WCTO radio stations, served on the board of countless community and food and beverage organizations, and received many accolades for his journalism in both print and broadcast media. He is currently available for restaurant consultation. Reach him at (631) 271-3227.