The village of Sleepy Hollow seems to specialize in hiding its best restaurants. Long ago, I discovered Corona’s Lunch a couple of miles from the busy part of Beekman Avenue, Sleepy Hollow’s main drag. It exists in splendid isolation, near the defunct GM plant, and specializes in very good, authentic Cuban food in huge quantities for very little money.
Recently another gem has chosen to hide away from the busy thoroughfares of Beekman and Route 9. Thai Garden is located on Cortlandt Street in a busy residential area, so it’s short on parking spaces (though valet parking is offered), but it’s long on atmosphere. The spacious, light and extremely colorful restaurant sports lime green walls covered with bright Thai prints.
I start with the Thai iced tea, a fragrant, slightly sweetened tea, made luxurious by a layer of cream. The appetizers are superb: fried won tons, spicier and with more filling than their Chinese counterparts; Mee Grob, crisp noodles with a sweet and sour sauce and perfectly cooked shrimp; beef satay, spiced strips of beef served with a peanut sauce and cucumber salad. The only jarring note: crispy cups, a bland mixture of corn, chicken, peas and shrimp housed in a small, slightly stale pastry shell.
The main courses are equally good. Take, for example, the duck with tamarind sauce (Ped Grob). The duck, boneless and rendered of its fat, has skin so crisp, it’s almost brittle. It arrives on a bed of crispy noodles, flanked by vegetables cooked to perfect al dente doneness, and accompanied by a medium dark tamarind, chili and garlic sauce. The dish is completely satisfying and arguably one of Westchester’s finest. However, one busy Saturday night, the duck came to the table with its skin soft, throwing the whole dish off balance.
Thai food has a reputation for being extremely spicy, but in fact there are plenty of Thai dishes with little or no spice at all. At Thai Garden, the chef tends to have a light hand with spices, although they can be adjusted to taste, so that you can have your food with
no spice, or you can go crazy, and order something with blistering amounts of chili. I chose one dish that had me reaching for the water jug, Pad Kra Prow, chicken with chili, garlic and basil leaves.
A Thai staple is chicken massaman curry,
a yellow paste curry sauce with potatoes and coconut milk, that
can often be bland or oversweet. At Thai Garden, it is neither;
it is a well-made version with potatoes. Since the chef seems to
have a knack with vegetables (Thai Garden calls itself a Thai and
Vegetarian restaurant), it was time to try one of Thai Garden’s
signature tofu dishes. Haw Mok tofu, banana leaves turned into a
small barrel-shaped container filled with tofu and vegetables and
topped by a sauce combining tofu, coconut milk and red curry paste,
is beautifully presented, filling and delicious.