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Ploy Thai: Yet another entry into the Elmhurst scene

Small corner storefront, green and orange awning, opposite end of the park from NY Market/ Taste Good Malaysian etc. This place caught my eye as I drove down Broadway last weekend - made a mental note to try it. Glad I did.

Bear in mind that I've only tried one dish thus far. But, if the excellent Chicken Larb (salad) I had this evening is any indication, we've got another genuine contender on our hands. It was all going on: the flavors, the crunchy texture, and, of course, the heat. Enough heat to coat my tongue and lips for an hour, giving me a breezy feeling at the same time, without dwarfing the overall experience.

This being a small place, there are only five or six tables. It could easily be mistaken, given its' layout, for a neighborhood takeout joint. Adding to this impression are the many food photos lining the wall facing the street. But it was filled up, on 7 pm on a Sunday, when I walked in, and everything looked good.

What might work for Ploy, or against it, depending on your take on things, is how similar the menu is to Chao Thai. They even appear to have used the same printer/designer. But, hey, they're both tiny joints, which means if Chao is filled to the gills, you can give Ploy a chance.

I'm certainly planning a return. (Far too many crispy pork options for me to resist).

Ploy Thai
81-40 Broadway
Elmhurst, NY 11373
(take the R or V to Elmhurst Station, exit at 82nd Street)

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  1. I agree, went there for lunch. Had the papaya salad, that was nice and spicy.

    1. Also closeby and fairly new is Nusara Thai Kitchen at 82-80 Broadway (in strip mall). I had just one meal at Nusara (lunch) and it was very good. I plan to try Chao Thai & Ploy Thai. Was in the area today to pick up 50 frozen dumplings at Lao Bei Fang and decided to have lunch (first time) at Minangasli Indonesian and I'm glad that I did. Very pleasant helpful staff plus good food. I had #19 Nasi Rames Ayam Goreng Sambel Ijo (deep fried chicken marinated in fresh chilli). It came with steam rice, balado egg & jackfruit vegetables. I will most certainly return and try other dishes including the Sate Combo (lamb, chicken & beef) on a bed of rice cube.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Mike V

        As long as you mention it, and we are, after all, talking about the Thai scene, I hit Nusara this evening. Nice enough place, permeated by the smell of sweet thai tea. Atmosphere and scope of menu remind me more of Sri than, say, Ploy or Chao. I went for broke with something I've never had before, the Clay Pot Shrimp, which they advertise as one of their specialties. Shrimp in a red hot sauce, cabbage, baby corns, carrots, wrapped up in glass noodles. Not bad, what with a subtle flavor and a residual mouth heat, but I couldn't escape the feeling that, done really well, this combination of flavors and textures could have been a home run. I chased the heat with a helping of fried coconut ice cream, a light brown ball crisscrossed with strands of dark cherry sauce, topped off by a dollop of whipped cream, cherry. Again, good, but I was hoping for better, for the deep fried exterior to somehow play off the ice cream better. The food was decent enough, the menu varied enough, to warrant a second visit, though. Never did find out which table was drinking all that sweet tea....

      2. Polecat -

        Tried Ploy last night, I agree the chicken larb was very good, excellently spiced but I think you may be disappointed with their version of crispy pork. Esp. if you like how Sri or Zabb prepares it. It wasn't that crispy and didn't appear to be the same type of cut as others I've tried. It was takeout so maybe it lost some texture in transit.

        But overall, very nice addition to the Queens Thai scene, thanks for the rec!

          1. re: bigjeff

            Nice set of pix there. That squid salad is calling my name.

          2. going tonight. any recs? or, joiners?

            2 Replies
            1. re: bigjeff

              I keep telling them to translate their specials into english. I recommend you tell them to do so! That's how we found the miang khan that they showeed at the asian feastival http://www.bionicbites.com/2010/09/be... -- but I'm pretty sure it's just the tip of the iceberg.

              1. re: Jeffsayyes

                cool; i will try to get recs; was looking at the flickr set above and I see a few targets already; I'm a sucker for offal soups, what can I say?

            2. had a lovely meal there with plenty of leftovers (well, too many tasty things on the menu). For two (total bill of $60 all told)

              + bamboo salad
              + pork larb
              + miang khan (special)
              + mussel pancake (special)
              + guay jub (wide "fun" with crisp pork, stomach in blood soup)

              all of it was delicious; quite strong flavors, almost too salty. the bamboo was good but not fragrant; overly salty. The pork larb had good heat and also very strong flavors and smells (definitely needs rice to accompany). The noodle soup was delicious; lots of great textures and flavors, excellent dish. The miang khan is the kale-leaf wrap things; very good; I've seen it for takeout at srip and I've also made it myself; I think the last time I had it from a restaurant was a little while ago but I can't remember where that was; their rendition was very fresh, delicious, crunchy. the mussel pancake was really really similar to the banh xeo of my dreams; I thought it would be mussel fritter-like thing that Srip has but its a bed of bean sprouts (tasted really chinese-y) with a wonderfully crispy, yellow pancake on top, with fresh mussels embedded; very much like the shrimp version of banh xeo. this must be the laos influence, because I've always had it at vietnamese places but I was told it was actually a laos thing (and there's a thread floating around about it too which I'll post too). So there is additional "collusion" of laos/northern stuff on this menu.

              the specials sounded good, and there are some very cute icons that are meant to decipher; I took a picture of the menu so I'll post it later but they have:

              + thousand year egg stirfry (similar to Thailand Center Point's rendition)
              + isaan sour sausage
              + grilled calamari
              + fried calamari
              + the miang khan that we had
              + the mussel pancake that we had
              + raw shrimp salad! (probably like ayada's)
              + they also have a pork offal dish that sounded great (the icon is kidneys)
              + what seemed like your choice of meat, served in a very spicy thai sauce of fragrant fresh herbs (second column of specials, third item, no icon)
              + also a few others

              the staff was very sweet; they warned us away from the specials, insisting it was only for thai people but we persevered; I was dead set on all of our salads anyway. There is a chive rice dumpling app that reads boring on the menu, but showed up on our neighbor's table as fried, green-speckled triangular wedges that looked really good. next time I would definitely want to order that raw shrimp salad, the pork offal dish, and definitely that funky thai herb dish, probably with crispy pork. there were also a lot of enormous bowls of soup going out of the kitchen which looked delicious. this place has a lot of potential for great food; they do an OK job of hiding the restaurant's past as a typical takeout but it doesn't detract from the food.

              to rejigger the ranking, I think I'd rather visit this place and eat through it a bunch, as opposed to returning to Ayada, Chao or TCP. Not sure if it's because it's so much better, but just something different. good stuff.

              16 Replies
              1. re: bigjeff

                The chive dumplings are excellent. They're crispy on the outside and kind of gooey on the inside.
                I got hooked on these at Zabb before it changed, and the ones at Ploy are just as good.
                You can get them at Chao and Ayada too, but the versions at those restaurants aren't as texturally pleasing to me.

                77-08 Woodside Ave, Queens, NY 11373

                1. re: jaingmaster

                  I haven't been yet, but Playground next to Zabb is the first owner of Zabb. Maybe he has the same dumplings.

                  Eaten path just wrote about Ploy http://theeatenpath.com/2010/10/19/pl...

                  and that is so interesting about the icons. I never knew! I gotta look for pig face next time I go. At least the icons are a start to them being in English...

                  1. re: Jeffsayyes

                    TCP also has the icons; pretty cute. Eaten Path's pictures are gorgeous.

                    your own writeup is great, btw, esp. with the lowdown on the Who's Who of Elmhurst Thai. verrrrry interesting stuff.

                    I gotta check out one of your Ambassador events sometime!

                2. re: bigjeff

                  you can see the icons on the left. going down:

                  squid dish
                  raw shrimp
                  miang khan
                  offal/organs (represented by kidneys)
                  not sure what that ball is
                  the pig face is some pig meat conglomerate
                  last icon is sliced sausage, isaan-style

                  plus, 4 more dishes with no icons, I think the 2nd or 3rd is the funky chili herb dish.

                  just press the servers a little and they'll help you out with this although they definitely tried to steer us away, saying it was only for thai people.

                  1. re: bigjeff

                    Awesome!! You took an image of the specials menu. Thanks so much for that. It would be great if more of us could do this so that we can get an idea of all the dishes these places can make that are not on their official menu. It just irks me to death when these Thai places just assume non-Thai's cannot eat their food. I am disappointed to hear this is the mentality exists in the Queens joints as well, I have already long accepted that this is the case in Manhattan. Maybe if more of their non-Thai customers started ordering these items they would start letting go of this stereotype and we wouldn't have to miss out on all the hidden gems.

                    Anyway it looks like you got most of them translated, but let me go through them line by line jut to cover the ones you missed. I will list the dishes in Romanized letters as well just just in case anyone wants to try ordering them in Thai. Who knows they might make them more authentic.

                    First Column from the left
                    -Pla Murk Tawd/Yahng (Fried/Broiled Squid)
                    -Kung chae nam pla (raw shrimp topped with fish sauce, lime juice, garlic, and chilies)
                    -Mieng kana (You guys know what this is, not easy to explain)
                    -Tom dtuer huan (Sour and Spicy entrails soup)
                    -Yum naam khao tawd (sour pork and toasted rice salad)
                    -Naam duuk moo tawd (sauteed boned sour pork...not too sure what this dish is but that is the roughly the translation)
                    -Sai krawg Isaan (Isaan sausage)

                    Second Column
                    Khao cluk kapi (Shrimp paste fried rice)
                    Nam Prik Pla Tuu (Thai Mackerel chili paste)
                    Kua Kling (Curried meat)
                    Hoi Tawd (Fried Mussels)
                    Kheow wahn chin pla kraai (Green curry with fish cakes)
                    Khai yeow ma prow grawb (crispy thousand year egg with holy basil)

                    Now just to clarify a little. Kua kling is really more like a red or green curry with no coconut milk that has been cooked out dry really is no sauce and the meat is almost jerky consistency. The thai herbs are probably just chilis, minced lemongrass and lots of shreaded kaffir lime leaves. I have seen it before in the fridge at Sripraphai (that version tasted horrible btw.....waay too salty) but I am surprised to see on the menu because it typically is a dish that takes quite some time to cook down...so they must have some special secret if they can cook it in 15 mins.

                    Honestly none of these dishes should be intimidating to non-Thais......ok I can maybe see the entrails soup in not for everyone and the mackerel and shrimp paste both may have unpleasant odors, but really...please just let us try them.

                    I've never actually eaten at Ploy Thai. I picked up a take out menu a while back, but will definitely have to check it out.

                    1. re: Jake the Snake

                      thanks for the translation; perfect.

                      yep, we had the mieng kana, and the hoi tawd. next time, I really want the tom dteur huan, the naam duuk moo tawd, and the kua kling; that's the one she was really trying to warn me away from but at the same time, showing it off like, if you want authentic thai, then this is the one. she was also pushuing that kheow wahn chin pla kraai but I'm not really a fan of fish balls.

                      hope you have a chance to eat there, I'd like to know what you think.

                      1. re: bigjeff

                        I've read through the reviews. I would really like to know which of these 4 is the best or at least the best 2 - Ayada Thai, Chao Thai, Ploy thai, or Nusura Thai. Some of the reviews posted are a few years old so I'm eager to know what you think.
                        I would not be into entrails or extremely exotic things

                        Chao Thai
                        85-03 Whitney Ave, Queens, NY 11373

                        77-08 Woodside Ave, Queens, NY 11373

                        1. re: Waterway

                          itll probably depend on what dishes you want, for example Sripriprai has terrible pad thai but good green curry. might be useful to have a must have list of dishes for each place.

                          1. re: Waterway

                            different preferences. I wouldn't put nusura in top 2 though. There are other great ones in teh area too.

                          2. re: bigjeff

                            Okay. Was in the area today so I finally got to sample this place. We did not have time to eat in, so we decided to get some stuff to go. For the record, the specials menu remained unchanged from the one posted above, which was a good thing for me.

                            Bigjeff, based on your recommendation We ordered the Hoi tawd, which was superb! SUPERB.....nuff said. Frankly this is a dish that I feel is as hard to find done right in the US as is Pad thai and they nailed it!! (Sadly the best pad thai your probably going to get here is home-cooked at a thai household) I actually tried Sripraphais hoi tawd version and it did not sit well with me at all...was greasy, soggy and sauce was bland. I can only imagine what Ploy Thai's version would have tasted like fresh and not take out, but it did travel quite well. It is shame this is not on their permanent menu. I must go back for this while they are still making it.

                            Other dishes we ordered were Yum naam sod, and yum pla duuk foo. The yum nam sod was a tad sweet but not terrible. The dressing for the yum pla duuk foo was unfortunatly waaaay too sweet. Still, I must give them great props for packing this dish so well. They separated the fried catfish, the mango salad and the dressing and included a packet of dried chili flakes so you could assemble the salad yourself. It kept its crispiness really well. This may be a matter of personal preference, but as of now there is still no place that can touch Sriprapahai's rendition of this dish, which uses mint, cilantro, scallions, fresh chilies (not dried) and shallots.....All herbs tasting as if they were freshly picked the same day and mango strips cut perfectly. Thailand's Centerpoint used celery, tomatoes and so much dressing it was almost a soup.....not good. Chao Thai's version...ouch don't even want to go there....mango strips still had skin on them, texture of the catfish was bad and they put sliced grapes in...yuck! Like I said it may be a matter of personal preference, but it is a dish I still can't resist ordering from Sri every time I get to go there and they have yet to disappoint me.

                            While we were waiting for our food, we noticed a lot of people (mostly thais) enjoying big bowls of noodle soups which really made me want to come back for a dine in experience to order them, because noodle soup does not travel well. I still have not done a Queens thai noodle soup comparison yet, but would love feedback from anyone that has. Still there does not look like there are any thai places that specialize solely in noodle soups like there are in LA or of course in Bangkok! We desperately need a place that does.

                            Overall, Ploy Thai is definitely a winner for their hoi tawd alone. HUGE thanks for the rec.

                            1. re: Jake the Snake

                              great report; thanks. definitely, people were knocking down those huge bowls, like 14" diameter, bigger than typical pho dac biet BIG BOWLS. will be going back for sure; thanks for your notes.

                              1. re: Jake the Snake

                                I ate there yesterday and it looked like almost every table ordered that hoi tawd.

                        2. re: bigjeff

                          I just remembered, I had the miang kana dish at one of the Wondee Siam's in Hell's Kitchen, also on a not-so-secret menu (it was on each table, one of those little lucite drink/dessert special displays). it was good, but Ploy's was better.

                            1. re: AubWah

                              Hahaha....I said it was tough to explain, but I'll try Mieng Kana (or Mieng Kum) is thai street food that is basically a leaf that is filled with lime, shallots,peanuts, chilis, toasted coconut and other goodies. In Thailand they actually use betel leafs, but since they are hard to get here it seems most places are using the "kana" leaf which is a relative of broccoli (this is why they are calling it mieng kana and not mieng kum) Check out this link for a video recipe:

                              Without hijacking this thread too much, did you know that the "Secret menu" at Wondee Siam is actually a decoy? They really do have a true secret menu written all in thai which is a full length menu that actually has like 30-40 items on, but unless you are going with a group of thais they probably will never bring it to you. I really feel this place is the thai food "nazi" (am I allowed to use that term). They truly have the capability to make excellent thai food, but will not do it for non-thais because they are so scared of the food getting sent back. I went with my friend and her brother, who are both thai, a while back and even so we still had to do quite a bit of begging. They kept pointing at me and shaking their heads despite my best effort to cover up my big farang nose. All the begging was worth it though as they served us the best Som Tam I've ever had in Manhattan. I also saw a soft-shell crab with mango salad at the table next to me that looked divine. In fact their thai menu was so good I felt they should scrap their english menu altogether, but I don't see that ever happening.

                              But Alas, I digress. BTW I stopped by ploy thai again for another hoi tawd, which was still great. They are consistent with this dish.

                              1. re: AubWah

                                The Chow Digest summary of this thread (and a couple of others) also has a description and a photo link ... http://www.chow.com/digest/64869/menu...

                                Ploy Thai
                                81-40 Broadway, Queens, NY 11373

                          1. a triumphant return visit yesterday. we had:

                            + beef and beef ball noodle in dark (blood) soup
                            + Kua Kling (curried meat, we chose duck) off the second column
                            + Tom dtuer huan (sour and spicy entrails soup), tasty
                            + mango salad with a little seafood

                            overall, a great meal, although, way too much soup; I wasn't expecting the the third dish to be so much liquid. the noodle soup was good, the flavor was not as sweet as other dark, blood-based soups I've had but, good flavor, strong spices. the entrails soup was mostly stomach, maybe some ear and other pig parts but basically, a clear soup with mustard greens and other vegetables. almost too plain, it could have really amped up the sour factor but I enjoyed it. the mango salad was kinda disappointing: not the flavor bomb that I've had at ayada with this dish, it was good, with a creeper of a spice buildup (we ordered medium spicy for all) but the mango was too ripe (not green mango) and not flavored mega-aggressively. I still enjoyed it, but somtam probably would have been a better hit.

                            the duck curry was great; a really dry curry, very pungent, heavily flavored. the duck was NOT deep-fried (thanks goodness, like at most other thai places) and just a simple plate of meat. many other tables had this same dish; our server recommended that we get it with pork leg but he said it would be really fatty and rich, so we went with duck (it was still rich, but not insanely so).

                            other tables seemed to get a pink noodle soup with seafood, that had a giant fried cracker served on top, I think this is maybe the yentaufo noodle soup?

                            if I become more of a regular here (good chance) then hopefully they'll start to hook me up with some decent spice levels but for sure, I had some sweat on my brow.

                            1. Hey, everybody. Thanks for the heads-up about this little Thai place. We worked it into a segment on NY1! Cheers,


                              5 Replies
                              1. re: alexvb

                                PS: This is a note from Alex Van Buren, CHOW.com Contributing Editor! CHOW is starting to do TV coverage of New York City, and posts like this are our bread and butter, so thank you!

                                1. re: alexvb

                                  Hey Alex just watched your piece great job.

                                  1. re: AubWah

                                    thank you! glad you liked it :).

                                2. re: alexvb

                                  thanks alex for letting us know, that's really cool! NY1 is my favorite channel.