Bangkok Pavilion

Bangkok Pavilion
(631) 269-4961, Kings Park

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An empty restaurant isn’t always a bad sign. The new Bangkok Pavilion in Kings Park illustrates the point.

Initially I dropped in around lunchtime and then on another day at dinner at this Thai spot that opened in September (our visits were in October). It was empty both times. (As we departed after dinner a foursome arrived along with someone picking up a takeout order.) That meager showing combined with the previous failure of three other Thai restaurants at this location (Sarin, Chaophaya and Siam Thai) did give us pause.

Despite some early missteps Bangkok Pavilion has a shot at making it. It offers a very modestly priced, lengthy menu, some admirable dishes, a friendly eager-to-please staff and the cooking of Settapat Bunnak, a veteran Thai chef from just outside Bangkok who saw previous service at Peep and Breeze in Manhattan.

Its limitations, none of them catastrophic, include staccato service, offering only three cliché desserts, having just two tea possibilities and no coffee. Dishes don’t come out of the kitchen at the same time causing sometimes sizeable gaps.

Inside this modest, unusually shaped corner spot, diners will find a scattering of Thai wood cuttings, some traditional Thai art and appropriate Asian music.

Starters demonstrate Mr. Bunnak’s ability to craft flavor sparks without explosives. Diners who fear the sometimes searing spiciness in a number of Asian dishes can relax here (about 50 percent of Thai food isn’t spicy) and vegetarians will rejoice. The first starter sampled validates that last observation. Fresh basil roll or upright green cylinders of soft rice paper harbor fresh basil and vegetables in a mild honey tamarind sauce ($6). Potstickers, six soft vegetable and chicken-stuffed dumplings with a touch of savory (but not incendiary) sauce were equally non-threatening ($6). Crusty crab, or six delicate wonton pockets filled with lightly fried crab and cheese, were enhanced by two sauces, plum and garlic cream ($7). Best of all was the dinner-size portion of crispy duck salad, a delicious tangle of crunchy duck, chili, tomatoes, scallions, apples, red onions, cilantro and cashews with a dab of lemon juice ($8).

Curry lovers won’t find much curry flavor in the smooth, yellow but unexciting mango curry. Its red curry and red peppers are muted by coconut milk, peas, pineapple, basil and citrus ($13). If you like pad Thai, Thailand’s signature dish, chances are you will also enjoy pad see eew. It’s a first cousin to pad Thai with the same rice noodles (though flat, not thin) and the same egg add-on ($12). Pineapple cashews, a jumble of chicken and shrimp sautéed with onions, mushrooms, peas, cashews and red pepper is dominated by its chunks of fresh pineapple and the fresh pineapple shell in which it’s served ($17). Tamarind duck tops all the entrées. It’s moist, even juicy with a light, crispy, crunchy coating of tamarind—an Asian fruit of brown banana–like pods containing seeds—and a sweet and sour pulp ($18).

Diners should expect a no-surprise dessert menu. Those who have eaten at other Thai restaurants might be satisfied after the first two courses and opt to skip the three predictable desserts—mango and sticky rice, fried banana and fried ice cream. Although a number of Asian eating-places don’t serve coffee, many offer a diverse and interesting selection of teas. Expect neither at Bangkok Pavillion while waiting to settle the bill.

Photo by Paul Kim / thefphoto.com

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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.