From a Pack of Thai Newcomers, an Isaan Standout

Among the Thai restaurants springing up these days all over western Queens, Poodam’s sounds like the best. Fiery, funky Isaan-style dishes are the specialty—“spicy, authentic Northern Thai cuisine,” rejoices laura24, who loves a high-octane version of duck with chiles.

Catfish larb is wondrously complex, with welcome smokiness and a garnish of mint, cilantro, and fried lime leaves—on a par with the version at Isaan favorite Zabb, says PAL. Green papaya salad also boasts uncommon nuance, with deeply toasted peanuts, a strong dried-shrimp presence, and robust spicing, “right up to the edge of being too much without going over,” megatron writes.

If this place gives you a bad feeling, you’re probably flashing back to the days when a series of sorry, short-lived Thai eateries occupied the same hard-luck space in Astoria. Poodam’s appears to have lifted the curse. “I’ll be darned,” muses hatless. “It may look like the dreaded Thai Spice, but it sure isn’t.”

Sunnyside also has a promising Thai option in the assertively named I Am Thai, open since November. A grab-bag noodle soup, featuring fish balls, peanuts, and unidentified sour notes, is imperfectly balanced but close enough to the mark that it transports Huck back to a plastic table on a Bangkok side street. He also notes encouraging touches, absent at more Westernized places, such as lime leaves in the Penang curry. Others endorse simple, comforting ginger soup and generously spiced papaya salad.

Huck adds that this is no Sripraphai—hounds always say that, don’t they?—but is still the best Thai restaurant in this neighborhood.

Two more Astoria entries have gotten some attention, though details are few. Benjamas serves a spot-on chicken soup, chicken-pineapple fried rice, and amazing fried ice cream, says ctina. Mike V is sold on the $7 lunch special: an unusually wide choice of 12 entrées plus salad, soup, and rice (a 13th entrée, salmon chu chee curry, is $9). A block to the west, Leng offers wonderful food, great service, and a gorgeous room, reports bongobella. She recommends garlic shrimp, coconut soup, and pad thai.

In Woodside, a newcomer called Pa’Oun got off to an inauspicious start, opening first with a different name and a sprawling “Thai and American” menu that offered chili con carne, tabbouleh, and cobb or “Tuscan” salads alongside the usual Thai suspects. Wisely, the owner has since ditched most of the non-Thai fare. But, inspired by a previous stint at Island Burgers in Manhattan, he kept a Thai-accented hamburger spiked with spicy peanut sauce. It’s very good, grvsmth says.

Beyond the burger, Pa’Oun is a work in progress. Flavors are fresh but often unbalanced or one-dimensional, Joe MacBu reports. “Overall, it has a good deal of potential, but it’s not quite there yet.”

Poodam’s (formerly Thai Spice) [Astoria]
44-19 Broadway (near 45th street), Astoria, Queens

I Am Thai [Sunnyside]
49-08 43rd Avenue (near 49th Street), Sunnyside, Queens

Benjamas Taste of Thai [Astoria]
34-16 Broadway (near 34th Street), Astoria, Queens

Leng Thai [Astoria]
33-09 Broadway (near 33rd Street), Astoria, Queens

Pa’Oun [Woodside]
53-21 Roosevelt Avenue (between 53rd and 54th streets), Woodside, Queens

Board Links: anyone else try poodam’s thai in astoria/lic?
Thai Food in Sunnyside?
Sunnyside’s “I Am Thai”
“I am Thai” in Sunnyside
Where to go after the Museum of the Moving Image?
Leng’s Thai - Astoria - Broadway
New Thai in Woodside (EGB)

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