Tucked in a mini-food mall among other ethnic restaurants and an Asian supermarket in Elmhurst, Queens is Nusara Thai Kitchen, a gem of a neighborhood restaurant, and well worth a trip for those who want to venture out of Manhattan for some authentic Thai cuisine.

Nusara’s menu is extensive with well over 150 items listed and that is only the dishes.  Add to that the variety of meats and vegetables that you choose to add to each dish and the number increases exponentially.  The servers are always ready to answer any questions you have and/or provide more information about their ingredients.  You can also vary the degree of spiciness of each dish to suit your taste as well as eliminate certain ingredients.

Popular appetizers are Golden Curry Puffs and Steamed Wontons.  Note that Thai wontons differ from the Chinese wontons which are usually made with pork and shrimp.  Thai wontons are made with chicken and shrimp.  All come with delectable dipping sauce.  Looking around, many people order the large soups to share.  The manager claims that the Yum Woon Sen salad (glass noodles with shrimp, chicken, onion, and chili with lime juice vinaigrette) is a popular salad.

Also according to the manager, popular dishes are the Pad Thai (rice noodle), Rard Naa (flat noodle with gravy), Red curry, Penang Curry, Ginger Duck, Whole Red Snapper with Pla Chili Sauce, Whole Striped Bass in Lime Chili Sauce, Crispy Pork Kra Pao (spicy basil sauce), and Clay Pot Shrimp (shrimp, glass noodles, bacon and vegetables baked and served in a clay pot).  If you want a blend of varying textures, try the crispy pork combined in Pad Woon Sen (sautéed glass noodles with cabbage, tomatoes, scallions, and egg).            

The presentation of all the dishes (including appetizers) is comparable to that at the fancy Manhattan restaurants.  Even a side of white rice is fun when you see it served in a variety of shapes--heart, teddy bear, fish, turtle, flower, etc. instead of just a scoop which is traditionally seen in Asian restaurants.  Service is friendly, courteous, and quick. The subdued lighting and décor is a delightful surprise since its appearance from the outside is understated--a storefront type of restaurant. 

Nusara's prices make it possible to dine out in this economy.  Currently, appetizers range from $4.95-$7.95 and are portioned for sharing so you can order a variety for the table for sampling.  Salads range from $4.95-$8.95.  Entrees, noodles, and specialty dishes range from $6.95-14.95 with whole fish dishes priced according to the market.  Special Thai desserts are $4.25-$5.95.  They have a separate vegetarian menu which is even more economical with items ranging from $4.25-$8.95.  And if you want to cut down on quantity, you can order their rice dishes which is rice with your choice of dish on a single platter—these range from $6.95-$7.95.  

The location is in a congested traffic area, but there is free parking in the lot facing the restaurant.  To avoid waiting for a parking space and waiting for a table, go earlier or later than the popular dining hours.  Also, when the supermarket closes, it relieves a lot of the traffic.  There is also the Elmhurst Avenue subway station across the street.  Nusara’s hours are 11:30-11:00 every day with the kitchen closing at 10:30.  Their website is www.nusarathaikitchen.com