New Thai in Sunnyside: Nodus
Wonder if anyone else has been to this place, which opened a bit over a month ago on Queens Blvd. in Sunnyside, next door to the UPS Store in the space that used to house a video store.
I've only been once, and it was by myself, so I didn't get to sample much, but I enjoyed what I tried and plan on going back to work my way through the menu. This should thus be considered a preliminary review, but as I said, so far, so good.
Nodus bills itself as a place for "Thai Noodles & Rice" and attracted me because its menu seems a bit different than the plethora of other Thai places in the area (all of which are fine, but seem to suffer from a kind of sameness, at least from a casual perusal of the menus). Nodus does mostly confine itself to noodle and rice dishes (at least for entrees), but they have quite a few interesting choices in (and out of) that range that seem to suggest an attempt to be at least a bit different, at least from the zillion places that offer basically two things - curries and hot basil preparations. This is not to say that most of this menu wasn't fairly familiar, but you could tell that at least they wanted to stretch the genre a little. This was evident particularly in the inclusion of a few fusion-y dishes, including some flambeed items that might be better theatre than they are food (won't know 'til I try them), but again, I give them A for effort.
My dinner started with Thai Spring Rolls, pretty standard Thai fare but fresh tasting, not at all greasy, and presented interestingly, diagonally cut in a little cocktail glass. This was followed by a Crispy Duck Salad, sliced crispy duck breast served with Thai style salad greens, pineapples, small cashews, spring onions and several other ingredients, tossed with just the right amount of a well made (if a bit standard) sweet and slightly spicy Thai salad dressing with a nice flavor of Nam Pla, the ubiquitous Fish Sauce (made from fermented anchovy) that is used in place of table salt in most Thai cooking. The salad was very tasty and had ample quantities of both greens and duck, both of which maintained their fresh and crispy character due to judicious (but more than adequate) application of the dressing.
For my entree, I selected a "Nodus Super Bowl," one of their signature dishes. Here you get a choice of one of five types of noodles and one of five protein choices, and you can have the bowl with broth or dry. I chose Asian Fish Balls, and asked the waiter to suggest the best noodles for that. He chose the rice noodles (as I suspected he would; probably the most delicate noodle to match the most delicate "meat' ingredient), and I ordered the dish with broth. The result was indeed fairly delicate -- some might even say a bit bland -- at first, but this was easily corrected via the carousel of various condiments delivered along with my noodle bowl -- a very spicy ground red pepper (cayenne, perhaps?), a red hot pepper sauce, some medium-spicy thinly sliced baby peppers in vinegar, and some ordinary table salt. In addition to this, the waiter kindly offered a couple of lime wedges. By the time I had doctored the broth to my liking, the dish was tasty and nicely balanced; the lime in particular added a nice acidity that worked well with the spices and brought out the fish flavors in both the fish balls and the broth. The fish balls themselves were, again, not extraordinarily flavorful, but this is as expected, and they benefited from the lime and spices as well. In the end, a satisfying experience, though I want to go back and try some of the other options that sound a bit more flavorful.
Nodus has desserts too, ranging from the traditional sticky rice & mango to some more adventurous offerings. Just for fun, I decided to try the "fried cheesecake," basically a wedge of cheesecake coated in something crispy and flash fried, much like fried ice cream. The cheesecake was topped with a strawberry coulis and doused in some sort of alcohol (didn't catch what) and lit at my table, where it happily blazed for about 20 seconds before it was safe to approach. Again, good theatre, though it probably didn't make that much of a difference in the taste of the resulting dish. About that taste -- the cheesecake was nice, with a hint of citrus in its flavor, and the fried outside was nicely crispy. The strawberry topping was a nice accompaniment, as was some lime-infused whipped cream piped into a pretty swirl on the side. My only complaint -- and it's more an observation than a complaint -- is that either through the frying or the flambeing process, the cheesecake itself developed a somewhat loose texture, such that it was a bit more the consistency of a firm pudding than the traditional cheesecake. So it lost some of its "tooth," but I'm not sure this was all that bad a thing -- it certainly tasted good, and the texture, if unexpected, was not entirely unpleasant.
The room is long and narrow and tastefully decorated in a fairly minimalist way, with low -- but not TOO low -- light. My only complaint about the physical place is with the chairs, which had a kind of a wrap-around tubular metal design (continuous back and sides/arms) and were just too narrow for my somewhat large American backside (I'm definitely XL... not XXL, but firmly in the XL category). Also, the music (the night I was there) trended a bit too much toward the dance-electronica end of the spectrum for my taste. I know this is very common in some of today's "trendy" places, but I do not personally find the insistent and non-stop beat of drum machines conducive to my dining experience; I feel distinct pressure to chew in time with the music, and I kind of feel like I should be able to make my own decisions with respect to chewing speed.
But that's a minor quibble. Overall, my first visit to Nodus was a positive one. Whether it holds up on repeated visits remains to be seen, but I'm encouraged so far, and looking forward to those repeated visits to find out.
I think I would give this place 3.5 stars if I Had that capability, but since I have to rate in whole numbers, we'll call it 3 stars for now. But if it continues to be this good when I come back, I will seriously consider upping that to a 4.
45-04 Queens Blvd, Queens, NY 11104
Though I must have passed by a number of times since it opened, I just happened to notice Nodus for the first time today as I was headed to an ATM a block past it. I grabbed a takeout menu and studied it as I walked. The "Super Bowls" sounded appealing, so I went back and had the Five Spice Duck with egg noodles. I ordered it "dry" so they brought a bowl of duck confit broth on the side. I was pleased to get the carousel of chiles without having to make a special request (other than mentioning that I like it very spicy when I was ordering). BTW, the powder is definitely NOT cayenne, but the typical dried and ground Thai chiles that you get at most Thai places or you can buy at Asian markets.
After doctoring the duck and noodles with various hot stuff, I spooned a few tablespoons of the broth on top of everything and created a pleasant sauce. The confit broth is fairly sweet, everything kind of balanced out.
I agree with the comments on the music, though the volume wasn't too excessive at lunch time today, the music itself was intrusive and jarring in character. The bench seating along the wall was also pretty uncomfortably narrow.
I give Nodus points for being reasonably priced and making some effort to not carbon copy the lowest common denominator menu that seems to be taking over. Who would have imagined 10 or 15 years ago that there would come a time in NYC that there might just be an overabundance of Thai? I see interesting items (Bangkok Duck Buns, Thai Chicken Empanadas, Thai Paella) that make me think a return visit might be worth the trouble.
Anyone else out there who has sampled more of their dishes?
45-04 Queens Blvd, Queens, NY 11104
I got one of their takeout lunches a couple of weeks ago - for $7, it wasn't bad, but I won't be running back. The lunch box came with a salad, app and main - I chose the drunken noodles with chicken and their little "purse" dumplings. Both ok, neither stellar. When I try it again, I'll do it at dinner and eat in.