Eim Khao Mun Kai is a small, dark store front with no outdoor signage. They do one dish and one dish only, Hainanese chicken rice. I would never had noticed them at all had it not been for the fact that I parked the car just a few paces away, on a busy stretch of Broadway that I usually look to avoid at all costs. It’s sandwiched between a pizza joint and a liquor store, and is just a few storefronts away from Ploy Thai.
The walls are brick, the ceiling one of those old-school corrugated numbers. It’s mostly a take-out joint, with two small round tables against the wall. Three skinned whole chickens hang from hooks behind the counter to the right, and there’s what appears to be a metal street food cart to the left, from which they sell cold drinks and sodas.
Again, these guys do one thing and one thing only. You have a choice of two orders, a half or whole chicken, on a pile of ginger-flavored jasmine rice, with a side of soup and a soda. The small order will hold you; it’s $8.99. The chicken rice comes with mostly white meat boneless chicken atop the rice with a few pieces of dark meat and a few small slivers of chicken liver, as well as three cucumber slices, for palette cleansing, and a thick, dark spicy sauce in a small plastic cup. There are other condiments on the table that I didn’t bother with, because the spicy sauce was enough. These guys are Thai, and the guy behind the counter told me that they do a Thai-style chicken rice (Khao Mun Kai is Thai for chicken rice), not so much that I’d notice; the sauce was what struck me as Thai, nothing else. The rice here was the clear star, fresh, aromatic, tasty, and, like I said, I liked the sauce. The chicken wasn’t so great, not when you consider that this is a place that does nothing all day but this dish. It wasn’t especially tender and, on the whole, not all that much better than what you’d get at any Malaysian restaurant in these parts. It should be better.
I actually did a double take when I peered inside this place and discovered it was a specialist restaurant, and, for that reason, wanted to like it more than I did. As it stands, although I liked the rice and the sauce, I don’t see myself beating a path back here any time soon. That said, these guys are new – they’ve been around for less than a month – and the food quality at this stage could be a variable.
The upside here is that, if these guys hit their stride - they've been around for less than a month - it could set the tone for more specialist joints to open up in Queens, which, to my taste, is a good thing. So I find myself rooting for them to succeed, and would encourage all of your Chicken Rice enthusiasts to beat a path out here and see what you think.
Eim Khao Mun Kai
81-32 Broadway, Elmhurst
(sorry, didn't get the phone number)