With only some notes in the city's Thai Facebook groups, a tiny sandwich board outside, and obviously successful word of mouth, the second weekend of life for Thai Cook was a very busy one. Venturing in both days over this past weekend found excited Thai diners filling many of the establishment's tables, a common occurrence in a neighborhood where news travels fast of new openings.
The new restaurant actually exists within the confines of iCook, the all you can barbecue and hot pot joint that took up residence here a couple years ago. Thai Cook brings its own energy to the space, which often would find itself empty during off hours. Hopefully this relationship works out for both, as each might bring the other unique customers.
The Thai Cook side of the operation.
The chef here actually started her career in Brooklyn, cooking at the tiny Thai takeout called AM Thai Chili Basil and later moving to a more thorough operation. When it opened, it was one of the only acceptable joints in Brooklyn to find the real food of Thailand. Apparently enough customers asked why she had not opened up a restaurant in Elmhurst, and here we are to watch her next stop.
They make many of their drinks in house, including the matcha milk green tea (below), which tastes much more like the versions you would find in Thailand, sweetened up to the country's tastes unlike their Japanese counterparts. A table of three Thai women near us was going absolutely mad and making videos in awe of the drink.
Back in Brooklyn, the chef was always known for her tasty som tum creations, which have the whole center section of the menu devoted to them here. Two large wooden mortars are visible in the back and always in use, a very good sign. There are ten different options, including the tum salted egg yolk ($8, below), which again ran on the sweet side through an abundance of peanuts.
All the base of a wonderful salad was there though, so with a few squeezes of lime juice and a bit of chopped up Thai chili, the salad was really rocking. If was the first and last dish to be tilted and drank when finishes as not to lose any of the wonderful juice.
Noodle soups come in three options all for $5 each here, small portions that allow for the table to order quite a few other dishes without filling up too fast. This style is often seen at the noodle houses in Thailand, where small bowls of noodles can be ordered and re-ordered until full. What translates on their English menu as "braised pork noodle" is nam tok ($5, below), full of thinly sliced cuts and balls. The broth trends a bit towards the sweet side but naturally this soup desires to be spicy, so ask for the condiment rack and go for it.
Best of the three noodle soups was probably the tom yum noodle ($5, above), which had a great balance of all requisite flavors. The thin noodles let the ground pork and sweet and sour broth do most of the talking, while the chilis made sure to catch up to you a few bites in.
With an extra -ur in the name for some reason, the yen ta four ($5, below) was interesting and enjoyed although entirely different than many versions in the neighborhood. The sweetness in this bowl almost had the character of barbecue sauce, but somehow worked well with the shrimp and noodles.
In the "steamed" section of the menu were many seafood options, but the lime pork slice ($6, below) was calling out with extra force during this meal, and for good reason. This was the dish that caused surprised looks over the table, as the sour and spicy citrusy green sauce was out of this world.
The pork slices are rolled around greens and mushrooms, creating a bite full of crunch and chew. This should not be missed and this section of the menu will be worth exploring on return visits.
There is also a "yum yum" section of the menu, dedicated to Thai salads (yum) composed around meats and seafoods. Only the beef in the yum sliced beef ($8, below) was lackluster, but for this price point you could not ask for much more. The salad around it was beautiful and vibrant, full of fresh vegetables, chilis, and a sauce again worth licking up at the end.
If it was not already obvious, Elmhurst is not going to be stopped. New Thai eateries keep opening up these last few years and expanding the base of what New York City has in its playbook. Thai Cook is a good new addition and worth checking out to see how it evolves.
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