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Shrimp mango curry is served alongside a glass

Shrimp mango curry is served alongside a glass of Thai iced tea at Raan Thai in Smithtown. (July 30, 2011) Photo Credit: John Dunn

The evening sun streams through the big plate glass windows of Raan Thai in Smithtown. Here, I unwind over some good Thai cooking. No question, chef Natthamon Hongthong is well versed in the subtleties of the cuisine -- although she sometimes hesitates to turn up the heat.

STANDOUTS

Both tom yum goong (shrimp lemongrass hot and sour soup) and tom kha gai (chicken coconut soup) are heady, fragrant, complex. Bright, fresh summer rolls (rice paper enfolding shredded vegetables, basil leaves and Thai noodles) disappear quickly.

A Thai roasted pork omelet is fried up good and crisp, served with fiery Sriracha sauce. I'm particularly sold on the nuanced jumbo shrimp mango curry that includes zucchini and lots of fruit.

Hongthong makes a very good pad Thai (rice noodles with egg, ground peanuts and chicken). Her drunken noodles are ordered spicy but served mild; they have so much flavor that the gaffe hardly matters. Shrimp with basil is light and fresh.

A surprise hit is vegetarian duck (made from soy protein) stir fried with basil, onion, pepper and chili sauce.

Desserts are lovely -- light, milky rice pudding as well as black sticky rice with Thai custard (which tastes much better than it looks). Mango with sticky rice is another treat.

THE REST

Steamed dumplings are dense, bland. Crispy sticky rice is hard to chew; the egg in its menu description turns out to be what it's dipped in before being breaded and fried. The menu misleads on other dishes. On the seafood roster, only the garlic fish is described as fried, so I order flounder with ginger and scallions and end up with heavily encrusted, overcooked fish nuggets. "You have to call in advance if you want your fish steamed," I'm informed.

Chicken with plum sauce is battered, sticky-sweet -- not terrible, just ordinary.

BOTTOM LINE

What's needed is greater clarity in menu descriptions and at least some attention paid to spicing requests. Overall, though, signs look promising.

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