Thai Food to Hearten the Homesick at Dek Sen in Elmhurst, Queens
But you could happily build a meal entirely of snacks — steamed white radish cake, bronzed in a pan and wearing tatters of egg; pork patted down with crushed cilantro roots, earthier than the stems, and thrust on skewers in overlapping formation to keep the juices from fleeing; a papaya salad as refreshing as an inferno can be.
I had a few regrets, like a dish of char-siu-like barbecue pork with a virulently red gravy that called to mind melted lollipops, and a gummy bite of fermented sausage larded with flaps of pork skin. Noodles (sen) are trumpeted in the restaurant’s name and logo, but they’re mostly unmemorable on the plate, like bean-thread noodles in an oversweet “suki” (short for sukiyaki) sauce and a pork blood noodle soup somehow missing its urgent mineral tang.
One of Mr. Sirimatrasit’s hopes in opening the restaurant was to bring his family together. He and his mother used to cook at different restaurants in Manhattan. Now they spend their days side by side, while his wife, Tara Atthakorn (known as Noon), runs the floor; his cousin Atthachai Rinnasak helps in the kitchen, while another cousin, Chaidawid Rinnasak, waits tables; and the waiter’s girlfriend, Jie Liang, is in charge of desserts.
These include a rainbow crepe cake — 20 layers, with seams of whipped cream — that she taught herself to make by watching YouTube. It is a study in the potency of sugar and air. Better yet is ice cream lush with coconut milk and studded with corn and jackfruit, scooped over sticky rice.
Dek sen means, literally, child noodles. But it’s also a colloquial term for someone who’s well connected. Ms. Atthakorn likes the double meaning — “like we’re a powerful gangster family,” she said, with a laugh.