Situated in the back alley of Amherst behind Antonio's is the diminutive Thai Corner. The space is bright and almost comically cozy, with a hodgepodge of cheap, faux-wood furniture and diners parked bumper- to-bumper; once you squeeze in, leaving your seat may require a large-scale reconfiguration of the entire room. There are some photos of Thailand, a few colorful curtains, and pleasantly low ceilings. But the kitchen is so overt that it's practically in the eating area, giving the place a friendly (if overbearing) neighborhood feel. The lone booth is dingy, but prices are correspondingly low, and take-out is also quite popular. This place has competent, knowledgeable, welcoming (if slow) service, and some of the best Thai food in the Pioneer Valley-and unsurprisingly, it's run by local Thai folks.
Service is tardy but not relaxed, with a bare-bones staff .Expect to wait before you order. Most of the food is quite satisfying, beginning with a first-rate chicken satay, an appetizer that so often comes up short in less able hands. Here, the tender, savory grilled chicken has medium spice, smokiness, plenty of oil, and an excellent interplay between coconut milk and peanut sauce. Beef satay also has a great texture. Massaman curry is another winner: subtle peanuts, tender onions, and carrots meld well with a pleasing sweet-spicy quality that has a bit of kick, and the potatoes are moistly al dente rather than dry or mealy. Chicken with pineapple, sautéed with carrots, onions and peppers, has just the right amount of fruitiness without going overboard. Kao-pad-kew-whan, a mixture of vegetables in a curry and coconut milk broth, is a light, satisfying lunch special, with green beans and eggplant balancing well with meat or chicken. Jasmine rice and fried rice have excellent consistency.
There are some downpoints as well. Noodle dishes don't reach the same heights as the rest. Pad Thai tastes cloyingly sweet and otherwise quite average. Soy-sauce-based sauces, such as the one that comes with the oyster-sauce-based beef noodle, are one-dimensional. And while vegetarians will be pleased with the variety on the menu, some things just don't satisfy; lightly fried tofu triangles, for instance, lack spices and flavor almost completely. But generally, in spite of the occasional gaffe, the game of musical chairs, and the long waits, Thai Corner's informality is charming. The food is reliably good, the price is right-and that combination is ultimately what keeps those little tables full and the take-out phone ringing.