Address: 1 St Marys Road
Phone: (09) 378 1776
On local dining-out websites, Star Thai is described as funky. The decor supports this notion. The normally ubiquitous portraits of the Thai king and queen are nowhere to be found (don't tell them that, you know how sensitive they are to criticism), and neither are the usual swathes of red and gold. Even the little good luck cat with the flappy arm is conspicuous by its absence from the counter.
Instead, there are photos of Hollywood stars - the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, James Dean, you get the idea - and cascades of silver balls, providing a distinctive '70s retro look. Star Thai - geddit? Plain tables and chairs are well-spaced and the tables are nearly large enough to hold the selection of plates.
The contents of the plates are less funky, more stock standard, but generally of a better quality than a number of other restaurants of similar ethnicity.
Our shared appetisers - prawn toasts, spring rolls, chicken-stuffed pastries and chicken skewers - were a cut above the usual offerings.
The prawn mix had real prawn in it, and was on a light pastry base instead of the more common chewy toast. The pastry that enclosed the minced chicken, sweet potato and yellow curry was similarly light, and the satay chicken just melted.
Warren does not eat fish, so opted for tod kra tiam, pork with garlic and pepper and a side of vegetables. Although mild, medium and hot dishes are indicated by the number of stars beside each item, Warren felt his two-star meal could have benefited by being three at least. The kitchen is prepared to overlook the star rating in order to accommodate personal preference, a kindness I was pleased to take advantage of with my larb gai. It rates as five-star on the menu, I ordered three star and it was pretty good, a well-balanced mix of minced chicken, mint, coriander and chilli with plenty of lemon juice. It was not the best larb I have ever had (that honour goes to Tom Yum in Dominion Rd) but not bad.
Lorraine suggested that her goong waan, marinated tiger prawns sauteed with garlic and prawns and with a side of vegetables, would be an ideal dish to introduce someone to Thai cuisine - tasty but not so overpowering it would frighten the horses.
And Bill had one of his favourites, although I hesitate to describe it as traditional Thai - sweet and sour pork with cucumber and pineapple. Bill liked it. He liked it very much, in fact.
And if the Thai names seem too daunting, the management has thoughtfully numbered each item on the menu.
Desserts seemed not to be an option, although we weren't too distressed. It was a school night, after all - literally so in Lorraine's case. An agreeable evening, enjoyable food and good company - can't ask for more than that, really.
Rating out of 10
Our meal: $184 for a shared starter, four mains, a bottle of wine plus two glasses of wine.
Wine list: Short and to the point, but the bases are covered, if barely. The Charles Wiffen Marlborough sauvignon blanc was wine of the week, if not the month, and was very palatable.
Verdict: Star Thai is a pleasant addition to Ponsonby eating options, without threatening other similar restaurants. Worth a visit.