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NICE THAI
AN INTERESTING LOCATION, A MENU OF FAVORITES AND SPICE TO SPARE

There it sits -- plunked between a pizzeria and a Subway in a strip mall. Isn't the American restaurant world wonderful? For an interesting alternative, Spicy Thai is a good restaurant to keep in mind.

It's tiny, and it's simply decorated -- about 12 tables, a minimum of wall decor. And a menu featuring many favorites. Busy takeout, too.

I counted 12 appetizers on the dinner menu. Fresh Shrimp Spring Roll wrapped in rice paper, $1.95; Crab Rangoon, complete with imported cheese, $4.95; Fried Tofu with Peanut Sauce, $4.25. And our choice, Fried Dumplings filled with pork, mixed vegetable and water chestnuts, $4.25. They were great. There are several soups, also, but we chose a great classic. Tom Yum Shrimp Soup ($3.25) was a classic hot and sour soup, but here it had a Thai difference. The alluring sweet-hot flavor of galangel (think ginger) mingled with the citric notes of lemongrass to create a very subtle balance. There is also Chicken Coconut Soup at the same price.

I loved the Pad Thai ($9.50). It was a a very generous heap of rice noodles, peanuts, chicken and plenty of shrimp, in a rich, rather than spicy, sauce. Again, carefully chosen seasonings created a rich medley in which no one flavor stood out.

And we were equally entranced by Siam Duck ($12), a chef's special that mixed the slabs of duck breast with vegetables and cashews in a rich house sauce.

Another chef's special, Pataya Chicken ($11.95), was simply not as terrific. Though it was presented nicely on a bed of broccoli, the peanut-based sauce was a little too heavy with ginger and manged to overcome the chicken.

Little cups of rice are served with these entrees.

Desserts are, of course, limited, but the housemade Coconut Ice Cream at $2.95 is well worth a taste. As is the Thai Iced Coffee, which is so rich it might as well be a dessert. It comes already brewed with a thick cap of condensed milk atop for $1.95.

There's an extensive vegetarian section in the menu with any kind of tofu dish you can think of. Among them: Lemongrass Tofu and Spicy Tofu, which comes only hot and very hot with green beans and the spicy chili paste for $8.85. And there's even a Vegetable Curry with coconut milk and basil and Pod Crazy Noodle Tofu with spicy noodles filling in with vegetables and tofu.

Lunch offers an assortment of curries, the almost stewlike dishes that are so elaborately spiced.

Wine by the glass is available as well as several Asian beers.

SPICY THAI ***

WHERE: 2865 Sheridan Drive, Town of Tonawanda (831-3921). Comfortable little Thai restaurant in a suburban plaza. Wine and beer only. Credit cards: American Express, MasterCard, Visa.

FAVORITE DISH: Pad Thai

NEEDS WORK: Pataya Chicken

PRICE RANGE: Dinner entrees from around $9.

SERVICE: Very good

NOISE LEVEL: Moderate

HOURS: Lunch, Monday through Saturday. Dinner, until about 9 p.m. daily.

HEALTHY CHOICES: Many vegetarian options and curries

WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes

PARKING: In the lot

KID APPEAL: Older children will like it.

e-mail: jokun@buffnews.com

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