N, Q at 30th Ave.
35th Ave. to 24th Ave., 50th St. to 21st St.
Yajai’s shabby dining area feels like a student storefront, where backpack-toters chow down while buried in a book. The main event is the busy takeout and delivery counter. As the staff’s English is shaky, at least one dish you order is likely to be randomized. Even if the counter guys get it right, the cooks might not. Shrimp are the tiny, defrosted sort, beef is leathery, and vegetables so overcooked they may as well be canned (the string beans and button mushrooms already are). Fried rice is barely fried, and nearly tasteless. And the kitchen has a dispiriting habit of topping dishes with a thick cucumber slice. But Yajai shows some flair with various Thai standard bearers. Noodle stir-fries, made with sheet-like flat noodles, come with a zesty brown sauce. Coconut curries have an appealing flavor, and the duck yum salad is thick with hacked pieces of rich but not fatty roasted duck. Trial and error is one way to learn what Yajai does well. Or you could ask the bookish regulars what they’re slurping.Recommended Dishes
Duck yum salad, $14.95; red curry, $8.95; Singapore noodle, $8.95; peanut sauce, $2