Compare Som Thum, a fresh green papaya salad, at Wondee's Fine Thai Food and Noodles on Main Street in Hackensack, above, and a takeout version from rival Bangkok Garden Thai Restaurant on the next block, below.
The strands of papaya are thinner in the Bangkok Garden salad, and the taste doesn't match that of Wondee's salad.
Wondee's Thom Yum Koong, a spicy soup, above, has more shrimp and mushrooms than Bangkok Garden's takeout version, and the broth tastes cleaner.
Bangkok Garden says it was the first Thai restaurant in Bergen County when it opened 25 years ago in January. Today, the dining room, compared to Wondee's, is beautifully decorated and in beautiful shape, above. The restaurant also has a full bar.
By VICTOR E. SASSON
The waitress at Bangkok Garden Thai Restaurant asked me to sit at an empty table while I was waiting for my takeout order on Saturday afternoon.
I looked at the polished wood floor, the tablecloths and the elaborate Thai decorations, and then thought of the shabby interior of Wondee's on the next block, where I've enjoyed wonderful Thai meals for more than a dozen years.
But when I got the two dishes home and tasted them, I knew why I was the kind of customer who doesn't judge a restaurant by its decor.
Bangkok Garden's green papaya salad seemed to have all of the right ingredients, but the portion was smaller and the taste was off.
The broth of the shrimp-and-mushroom soup, made with lemon juice and chili paste, also tasted odd, as if it had been sweetened.
The soup also didn't have as much shrimp or mushrooms as Wondee's version, which I order every time I eat there.
Bangkok Garden's prices also are higher than Wondee's.
Like I said, you can't eat the wallpaper.
Wondee's Fine Thai Food and Noodles, 296 Main St., Hackensack; 1-201-883-1700. BYO, rear parking lot. Closed Mondays.
Bangkok Garden Thai Restaurant, 261 Main St., Hackensack; 1-201-487-2620. Full bar, rear parking in metered lot. Open 7 days.