Galangal sweeps taste buds off on a sensory tour of Southeast Asia with an exquisitely aromatic menu of rich Thai specialties and fresh Japanese sushi platters. Patrons embark on exploratory dinners under the benevolent smile of a bronze-colored Buddha, savoring the Golden Bag ($6), crispy dumpling skins bear-hugging a tender mix of puréed yam and minced pork. Under the lush light of sconces twinkling from exposed-stone walls, the exotic Mango Basket rice crepe bowl ($15) glows as it pampers herbivorous palates with morsels of shredded mango frolicking harmoniously with baby corn and mushrooms. Eager forks reel spicy pad kee mao drunken noodles ($18) from an ocean teeming with mixed seafood, bell pepper, and eggplant. While diners linger at glossy black tables to the sound of the restaurant's babbling waterfall, skilled chefs behind the sushi bar nimbly twist up a rainbow's worth of bright specialty rolls, including spicy coils of mango and fresh lobster in soybean paper ($15) and a kaleidoscopic array of à la carte sushi bites ($3–$5). Luscious desserts including nirvanic bites of ice cream melting over fried bananas ($7) finally reward sweet teeth for patiently waiting through the night's savories.
Ai's menus are replete with classic and creative plates. A selection of traditional rolls, such as tuna or salmon ($4 each), will fill the usual sushi strongholds, but for hardened appetite bunkers, call in the game-changing bombs of special rolls such as the rainbow (a California roll topped with assorted sashimi and rainbow caviar, $9.95). There are also hearty chef's specials, including mango passion shrimp (sautéed shrimp and mangos in a special Thai pepper sauce, $13.95), and dinner entrees, including teriyaki beef negimaki (thin-sliced beef and scallions in teriyaki or Asian garlic sauce, $12.95).
As salty breezes blow in from the ocean and Jamaica Bay, they intermingle with the scents of contemporary Thai cuisine on the outdoor deck at Thai Rock. Specialties include the Poh Taek, a hot-and-sour hot pot filled with a combination of shrimp, mussels, squid, and whitefish. Chefs also stir-fry rice noodles with egg and dark, sweet soy sauce to create pad see-ew, available with a choice of protein such as chicken, certified Angus beef, pork, duck, or tofu.
As far as party spots go, Thai Rock lives up to its name. Live music rocks the indoor dining room year round, while tunes echo onto the outdoor deck and bar during warmer months. The eatery frequently hosts events, from karaoke contests to outdoor Zumba classes on the deck. The deck, with its panoramic view of—and direct access to—Jamaica Bay, is definitely a highlight of Thai Rock, allowing for warm-weather fun including pre-dinner jet skiing thanks to Rockaway Jet Ski at Thai Rock.
Owner Chai Chunton dreamed up Nodus Thai Noodles and Rice with a focus on noodles in particular, transplanting Thai cuisine from distant shores to the 28-year-old New York storefront. Collaborating with two designers and a fellow restaurateur, he recreated the polished-wood and bright-neon ambience of a modern-day Thai diner. Under Chai's direction, the chefs take dishes from across the world—including paella and flambé—and infuse them with Thai flavors, precisely applying the spices via psychokinesis.
Delighting food-loving locals, Thai Basil serves up freshly prepared flights of flavor that sport the spicy signifiers of authentic Thai cuisine. Cuisine classicists can sample the drunken noodles ($10/$12) mixed with any number of mouthwatering meats and tofus, or the pad thai, one of Thailand's most famous dishes, appetizingly augmented with stir-fried fettuccini noodles and steamed bliss ($10/$12). Adventurous patrons may pilot themselves toward the crispy red snapper ($20) or seafood jambalaya ($21), in which the beastly fire of choochee sauce courts the company of beauteous lobster and scallops made Cajun-style.