214 Knickerbocker Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11237
Our Rating: ★ ★
Cards: All major
Hours: Mon-Thurs 11:30am-10:30pm; Fri 11:30am-11pm; Sat 12pm-11pm; Sun 2pm-10:30pm
Subway: L to Jefferson St., M to Central Ave.
Menu: Click Here
Bushwick BK says:
TAGS: Bushwick, Cheap, Delivery, Restaurants, Thai, ★★ Meh
To be honest, it was actually my second visit to the restaurant and I wasn’t impressed the first time around. But, hoping for Long Lai to succeed, this time I went in with a reviewer’s eye to figure out what worked and what didn’t. Walking through the door, the strong smell of vegetable oil attacked my senses, but by the time I took a seat at one of the wooden benches lining the wall, I had gotten used to it. And just like that, I was back on Koh Samui island in Thailand. The walls, hand painted with trees and ocean scenes accented by a wooden surf board hanging from the ceiling, struck the perfect balance between Buddhist and backpacker. Reggae music piping through the speakers made me feel, if only for a second, like I was wearing a bikini at a beachside bar instead of a parka and gloves in Brooklyn.
Water was quickly brought to the table by the Thai waitress — a surprise, as I didn’t expect that many Thai people lived in the area. My meal started with the steamed chicken dumplings ($4.95). The first bite gave me a shock — there was something hard and crunchy hidden in there. I took another bite sans dipping sauce and the crunch, with its overwhelming salty flavor, was gone. Without the sauce, the dumplings were pretty good; I especially liked the fried garlic garnish on top.
Up next were the drunken noodles ($7.95), which I tried with mock duck. The plate and presentation were quite nice and so was the portion size. The noodles were cooked perfectly and had great texture, and the fresh veggies in the dish were really appealing, but the food was so over-salted and over-spiced that I couldn’t eat more than a few bites. The mock duck, which is simply tofu shaped and dyed to look like meat, didn’t taste bad but the color and texture weirded me out.
By that point the Panang curry ($7.95) would have to be exceptional to salvage the meal. The orange curry sauce looked beautiful and I loved the large portion of white rice that came on the side. Unfortunately, looks are not enough. The sauce was too potent; another half cup of coconut milk could have mellowed it out.
The best part of the meal came as a surprise at the end. For all orders over $20 a free house dessert is included. The warm black sticky rice with coconut milk, sugar and a pinch of salt was fantastic.
Had my meal been rated on service, decor, and dessert alone, Long Lai would be a hit — but everybody knows it’s all about the food. It could be one of the most popular dining spots in the neighborhood, but it’s going to take a few recipe tweaks and some serious self-editing.