Back in Astoria, and Loving It

I got over my post-patisserie-collapse trauma and went to the new Thai place, Leng, that has taken over the space at 33-09 Broadway. We were supposed to go to the new Philoxenia, which took over the space that was, for a brief and shining moment, the fantastic Peruvian bar. But it was closed on Monday (disregard what newyorkmag.com says on the subject!). Nonetheless, our friend Jenn walked into someone’s apartment upstairs by accident, asking “Is this the restaurant?” and they said, “No, but do you want some of this lamb?” Classy. And classic Astoria.

Anyway, the Thai: Whaddya know–that storefront goes back for miles, and there’s even a yard. I had to admit that the patisserie had just not been using the place to its full potential. It looks gorgeous inside (“Mob money laundering,” hissed Tamara; “Uh, underwriting from the Thai government’s food promotion program?” I countered hopefully), although the waste-not-want-not part of me cringes when I see huge jars of spices being used as decoration. I had to keep telling myself, They’re pretty. They grow on trees. No biggie. Just breathe deep. They are really gorgeous.

And while the food is no Sripraphai (but what is?) it’s certainly a lot better than any other Thai place in Astoria. Fo’ instance, there is actual ground rice on the beef salad, as should be standard for a larb. I love that gritty crunch. The steamed dumpling apps had some powerful flavors in–I was expecting them to be dull, but no. Unfortunately, I’m a bad reviewer because this was essentially my first time seeing everyone since my month away, so I got a little distracted. Oh, and good grilled eggplant.

The other thing I do remember: the humongo slab of Junior’s cheesecake for dessert. Not traditional, but so what? Turns out the owner is Jewish. Thai-Indian-Chinese-Jewish, as far as I understood. She said to us, “That’s why I’m always asking, ‘Do you have enough food? Are you comfortable?'” Portions are indeed mega-size, and the cushions are comfy, and she is truly hilarious and hospitable. And she has adorable photos of her mother and father on the wall (not the king of Thailand, as you usually get).

A huge bonus: It’s BYO. At least for now.

So–I highly recommend. It’s good to be back in the hood.

Also, happy to see Ali interviewed over on Joey in Astoria…