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Singha Thai

A dish of spicy basil duck is served

A dish of spicy basil duck is served at Singha Thai in West Babylon. (Sept. 8, 2011) Photo Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

Said to me over dinner at Singha Thai: "Close your eyes, and you'd think you were eating at a fancy restaurant."

Actually, we're in a neat but modest little storefront tucked into a West Babylon supermarket strip mall. Zero ambience. No liquor license. No pretenses.

But plenty of panache -- on the plate. Owner Ruighen Jiang (who acts as both hostess and waitress) and chef Kay Lin honor spicing requests with respect and accuracy. That neither was born in Thailand hardly matters.

THAI HIGHS

Soups excel. The tom kha gai (chicken coconut soup) is shot with chili, its heat balanced by the sweetness of coconut milk, the zing of lime. Tom yum shrimp soup, rife with plump shellfish, is full-flavored, fiery.

Going down easy is sticky rice with chicken and vegetables all wrapped up in a banana leaf -- an Asian tamale. Chicken satays are tender, steamed shu mai shrimp and pork dumplings delicate, summer rolls (Vietnamese rice-paper-wrapped shredded vegetables) simple and so fresh.

For sheer comfort, it's hard to top the chicken pad Thai -- unless it's with drunken noodles. Ordered with beef, the broad pasta is stir-fried with basil, onion and peppers, offering both a jolt and a hug.

A real firecracker is spicy basil duck with pepper, onion, scallion and chili paste. Spicy shrimp with string beans is all about vibrancy, as is the Penang chicken curry, mellowed out by coconut milk.

Salmon is done nicely, coated with Thai herbs, grilled and served with a ginger brown bean sauce. Even ordered mild, it's anything but boring.

For dessert, you might want to try Thai golden bread, sweet rolled pancakes with ground peanuts. Surprisingly, it's listed as an appetizer.

THAI LOWS

Mango with sticky rice features underripe fruit. And service, while friendly, can be pretty slow.

BOTTOM LINE

What you can tell your friends: "I know this great little Thai hole-in-the-wall ..."

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