(516) 303-9365, Woodmere
The Island’s increasing diversity is often reflected in its restaurants, none more so than at the four-month-old Pattaya in Woodmere. It’s a Thai restaurant with a Chinese owner and an Indonesian waitress, set in a Latino neighborhood near an Orthodox Jewish enclave. No doubt at least some residents who live in this multi-ethnic milieu haven’t eaten Thai food.
Now comes the 35-seat storefront Pattaya. It’s a neat little nook of bare tables, red walls and artwork depicting scenes of Thailand. Its representative, basic Thai menu reads like a survey course of the most popular Thai dishes (pad Thai, Thai pepper steak, spring rolls, papaya salad, fried banana, Thai coconut cake, mango with sticky rice, etc.). As such it’s appropriate for first-time diners experiencing Thai cuisine. It will not however, fulfill the quest of sophisticated diners seeking new and different Thai taste treats.
There are perhaps six dishes (five of them chicken-based) that aren’t on the menu of just about every other Thai restaurant. Unfortunately none of them are particularly exciting. With the exception of appetizers that are often more memorable and interesting than entrées, there are few peaks and valleys among most of the dishes. Diners experience neither strikeouts nor home runs.
That holds true for the well-intentioned service here, too. Our sweet, concerned, eager-to-please waitress was a bit tentative. Our orders needed to be repeated and we had to ask for clean plates or be left using those covered with soy sauce and food bits from the previous course.
Sticking to starters makes financial as well as culinary sense at Pattaya. Appetizer portions are generous, often providing leftovers for the next day. For an authentic red-hot spicy jolt, try the papaya salad. It’s strands of papaya mixed with string beans, tomato hunks, chilis, lime juice and ground peanuts ($7.95) that is enough for four. Palates in search of less assertive fare are well advised to try the four substantial skewers of chicken ($6.95) or beef ($7.45), the four steamed shrimp dumplings with their tangy garlic and ginger sauce ($7.50) or the six no-nonsense shao mai or shrimp and pork dumplings ($6.75).
Unfortunately things often go off the rails with the entrées. I’d avoid the bland, virtually unseasoned rama chicken, steamed white meat with a touch of peanut sauce on a bed of spinach ($12.95) and the equally uninspiring Pattaya chicken ($11.95) that’s light but nearly tasteless. One of Pattaya’s better moments involves their peppy rendition of Thai pepper steak (or chicken) with a generous scattering of shards of beef ($13.50).
Aside from the hard, unripe fruit in the mango with sticky rice ($5.50) the other desserts are all respectable if not surprising. The three delicate Thai coconut pudding-like cakes ($3.95) and two honey-topped fried bananas ($3.95) are gently priced and well-prepared.
Photos by Tom Fitzgerald and Pam Deutchman / thefphoto.com