Phattra Thai in Metuchen: A Must Go, or a Toss Up?

A winning decor (featuring live orchids) buttresses a hit-or-miss menu.

Phattra Thai sits pretty on Main Street in Metuchen, a town with a burgeoning restaurant scene. On this weekend night, there’s a busy vibe here as a persistent chill refuses to let spring strut its stuff.

Phattra defies Mother Nature, exuding warmth in its atmosphere and on its colorful menu. It’s got the usual suspects from Thailand, but also a printed list of nightly specials that take the genre a step further: a wild boar entree, a play on Thai street food called “roadside noodles,”  and items featuring East Coast soft-shell crabs, now in season.

The setting is far from a plain-Jane storefront: There are live orchids in tubes suspended from the ceiling, soft lighting, a golden Buddha statue and geometric tabletop accessories, bringing drama to much that’s served forth. By 7 pm, Phattra fills, and the floor crew is hopping.

Tofu Tod

The kitchen keeps pace, delivering tofu tod—soft, moist triangles of tofu fried and served with a sweet peach sauce and crunchy, ground peanuts—and classic curry puffs cosseting a mix of pulverized chicken and sweet potato with snippets of carrot and onion. They’re solid renditions of classics.

Curry puffs

As is the fried duck salad, with batons of apple, slices of mushroom and slivers of red onion. The duck itself, more of an accessory in this toss, was overcooked and over-fried. But the dressing, with a good squirt of lime juice and a dab of chili paste, was spiced right.

Roadside noodles

Those “roadside noodles”? A winner, with wide, flat noodles mingling with chicken, egg, sprouts and terrific preserved cabbage that brought a vibrant kimchi kick to the dish.

Wild boar

The wild boar didn’t fair as well: Also overcooked as well as under-seasoned, it tasted like mediocre supermarket beef. Sure, there were pops of green peppercorns, peppers, Thai basil and eggplant on the plate, but the boar meat was flat and not inspired by its accompaniments.

Fried Basa

Basa, a white-fleshed fish that here is fried and served with a green curry, suffered from excessive breading and tasted dry and dull. The coconut-cilantro sauce adored the eggplant, bell peppers, bamboo shoots and herbs in the saute that surrounded the fillets. But, again, blandness took hold,

Sweet sticky rice with mango is an on-point finale here, while a scoop of Thai iced-tea-infused ice cream doesn’t benefit from frying. Sometimes basic is best.

Phattra might not be destination dining. But if you find your favorites at this BYO, those go-to dishes and the exotic decor will make it a fine choice for in-the-mood-for-Thai dining.

Phattra Thai, 426 Main Street, Metuchen. BYO. Open for lunch and dinner, Tuesday through Saturday. Dinner only on Sunday.  732-515-9333.

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A winning decor (featuring live orchids) buttresses a hit-or-miss menu.
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