Manayunk has been without a Thai restaurant since the elegant BYOB Grasshopper quietly closed its doors in the summer of ’04. Now, Chabaa Thai Bistro, a compact BYOB with artful flourishes, has parked itself next to the Vespa shop on Main Street, expanding an ethnic restaurant mix that already included Italian, Greek, Japanese, Indian and Cajun/Creole. Carvings displayed in shadow boxes and silk pillows on the banquettes lend a refined air to Chabaa’s tiny downstairs dining room; upstairs, an eye-tricking mirrored wall makes the rowhouse-wide room look positively spacious, and seems to double the number of carvings and wall hangings in view. Finding a metered space is easy at lunchtime, and if the weather is favorable, you can sit outside and enjoy a heaping portion of pad Thai noodles or pad krapao, a spicy meat and vegetable stir-fry with plenty of anise-scented Thai basil. (Feed the meter well, because service can be slow.) The more expansive dinner menu adds appetizers such as grilled squid with a fiery green chili pepper sauce, and fried organic tofu with crushed peanuts; entrées include sweet-and-sour lobster, and pan-fried prawns with garlic, peppers and cilantro. Main courses run $10 to $17 for stir-fries and curries and $20-plus for seafood, but you can graze heartily on soup and an appetizer for $15 or less.
Chabaa Thai Bistro, 4371 Main Street, Manayunk, 215-483-1979; chabaathai.com.