25 W. Main St. Bay Shore, NY 631-666-6696
Thai restaurant serving traditional dishes such as mango duck and pad Thai, as well as spicier fare such as Gaeng Keo Wahn (green curry with chicken, eggplant, basil and coconut milk).Hours:
Lunch, Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; dinner, Monday to Thursday, 3:30 to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 3:30 to 11 p.m., Sunday, 12:30 to 10 p.m.
The tom kha gai served at the new Galanga in Bay Shore is reason enough to visit. The chicken coconut soup, a staple at most Thai restaurants, is rife with strips of white meat poultry that's been "velveted" (tossed in a mixture of egg white and cornstarch), rendering it beyond tender. The broth - somewhere between thin and creamy - is streaked with cloudy fingers of red chile whose fire is offset by the sweetness of coconut. Accented by cilantro and lime, it's the kind of soup I dream about.
A vibrant tom yum goong (hot and sour shrimp soup) and full-flavored poh taek (glass noodle seafood soup) come in as close runners-up, outclassing many bowls I've had at more ambitious and elaborately decorated restaurants. This place - little more than a long room filled with tables - is quite bare-bones. The takeout menu is utilized in the dining room; soda is served in cans.
Shuang, who formerly cooked at Lemon Leaf Grill in Carle Place, makes smoky skewered chicken and beef satays that come off as supernally tender. Delicate steamed shrimp dumplings, close relations to Chinese dim sum, are a culinary plus. But Vietnamese summer rolls should be deep-sixed; the ones I got featured hard rice paper enfolding icy-cold shredded vegetables. Redemption came in the form of a salad of shredded papaya mixed with string beans, tomatoes, chili and lime, a combination at once fiery and refreshing.
Since this restaurant caters to American palates, you often have to prove you're serious about wanting your food spicy. A Panang chicken curry made with coconut milk overplayed the sweetness factor, which needs to be counterbalanced by heat. On my initial visit, a dish of basil duck (requested extra-hot) had to be sent back to the kitchen for added spice. The next time, though, our waiter remembered that incident and made sure my husband's cashew chicken (a lively stir fry of poultry, vegetables, cashews and dry hot peppers) was the palate-scorcher he asked for.
Many dishes I tried succeeded from the start. A pork chop marinated with lemongrass, garlic, lime and galanga (the aromatic root for which the restaurant was named) had surprising depth of flavor. A stir fry of shrimp, calamari, onion, mint chili and black beans was imbued with the complexity of taste integral to good Thai cookery. Mee ga-thi (stir-fried coconut noodles with chicken, shrimp, pepper, mushrooms, bean sprouts and basil) nicely played sweet against hot, while the classic pad Thai - rice noodles with shrimp, egg, bean sprouts, tofu, and peanuts - came across as bright and savory.
For dessert, mango with sticky rice would have worked better had the mango been ripe. Banana, wrapped in a thin dough, fried and topped with honey and sesame seeds, was a less cloying conclusion than I'd expected.
If you're looking for the kind of authentic Thai experience that leaves your palate tingling for days, it may be best to seek elsewhere. But for food that's light, fresh and intriguing, this friendly little storefront comes through.
Reviewed by Joan Reminick, 4/8/08.