Submitted By Simon Hardy Butler, November 7, 2016-6:00 pm
Never underestimate a local restaurant.
That’s a good mantra to follow, especially when it comes to eateries such as Luck Thai, a sparsely decorated, low-priced establishment on a funky corner of Fifth Avenue in Park Slope that may reverse any conceivable preconceptions you have of it. Squarish in shape and ornamented with only a few traditional motifs on the walls, paper napkins on the stark tables and floor-to-ceiling windows that provide languorous views of the street and all its denizens, the spot at first glance doesn’t look like the kind of place where you’d expect any sort of culinary adventuring. The repetitious light music playing in the background reinforces that notion, but it’s quickly dashed when the edibles arrive—though they aren’t at all fancy, they show a care for taste and presentation that doesn’t always display itself at many other, much more expensive restaurants. How else could one explain the tiny, crispy pellets of fried garlic that dot your appetizers of shrimp fritters, golden disks of the slightly dry ground crustacean plated with an orange-colored sweet-and-spicy sauce, and dumplings, a little too doughy and chewy yet offered with a deep, rich soy? Or the lanky glass of Thai iced tea that’s not as sweet as the usual iteration of this beverage, making it even more refreshing and potable? Or even the charming, petite cone of rice that may arrive with your mains, as compact and well-constructed as a tiny building and a great deal tastier?
That’s not gastronomic apathy, folks. Someone at this restaurant really gives a hoot about food and diners’ experiences, and this is an attitude you don’t find every day.
The mentality is further exhibited by the gregarious service, which sees that your water glass is refilled at nearly every available opportunity. In an era where waiting for someone to quench your thirst in an eatery often can be comparable to standing on line at the DMV, such courtesy is much appreciated. That your host is personable just adds some emotional whipped cream to the top. Yes, ownership cares. Having a pleasant time is the goal.
If you order the chicken green curry, you might be even further on your way toward achieving that end. A soupy, spicy stew laced with peppers and saturated with coconut flavor, the dish arrives with a fetching basil flower placed on top—a small touch that adds panache to the plate. Sadly, the Crying Tiger is not as toothsome: the slab of lemongrass-accented steak, though perfectly edible, comes with a too-sour roasted-rice sauce that overwhelms the meat, and the bland steamed broccoli on the side doesn’t provide much interest value. The dish is proffered on a bed of wilted iceberg lettuce that prettifies little and supplies almost as much taste. Not a successful plate … but it’s hardly representative of the others here.
Thankfully, the dessert picks up where the high quality left off—in particular a sticky rice with mango treat that pairs the super-sweet fruit with the coconut-infused rice, which may be a little too al dente for your taste yet remains quite palatable … like a homemade, grainy pudding from days of yore. Also resembling something out of ancient history are the prices: Entrees frequently range in the mid-teens, while appetizers, in general, go for less than a ten-spot. Such munificence augments the overall appeal, and when you leave, full and appreciative, you may get a chance to say goodbye to your jovial host.
I’d thank him, too. Because Luck Thai goes far in supporting the notion that one should never underestimate a local restaurant. And we should be grateful such eateries exist, as they help shore up the gastronomic fabric of this wonderful city.
Paper napkins and all.