Worth cracking open is Thai Coconut, a simply but tastefully appointed little restaurant just steps from the LIRR station in Wantagh. Hop off the train and within minutes, you can be communing with a bowl of sour-spicy tom yum goong that's rife with plump shrimp. Or contentedly spooning some tom ka gai, a nuanced chicken coconut milk soup jolted by chili and lime.
Skewered shrimp satays, served with peanut sauce, are big, slightly smoky; moist well-marinated chicken and beef satays turn up hyper-tender. So, too, do the honeycomb pieces of squid in the knowingly spiced yam pla muik, calamari salad with fresh mint, basil and lemongrass.
Thai Coconut's chef, Guang Lin, was born in China but spent several years in Thailand, where he learned to cook that nation's cuisine. Thankfully, he tends to rein in the sweetness factor, which can run high when a restaurant plays to what it perceives as the suburban American palate.
Even so, Lin holds back a bit when dishes are requested very hot. That turns out to be the case with spicy basil shrimp, which, while not as fiery as requested, is quite good, nonetheless. Drunken noodles, stir-fried broad rice noodles with chicken and vegetables, offers comfort with a slight but palpable buzz.
Lin comes across with full fire power, though, in the case of a Panang curry with pumpkin and beef. Here, the dulcet creaminess of the coral-crimson sauce is ingeniously balanced by the intense heat. A nuanced green curry with eggplant and chicken is undermined by wateriness.
Ideal for those who eschew chili peppers is mango duck, rich pieces of poultry in a complex sweet-and-sour sauce with mangoes, peppers and red onions. Peanut chicken with pea pods and carrots in a brown sauce has crunch as well as a touch of heat.
To soothe the chili-fired palate, conclude with sliced mango and sticky rice. Appropriately -- given the restaurant's name -- it's drizzled with coconut milk.