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Nice Thai 

Ricky Ly's Asian empire extends to Beachwood.

Ly's Thai Gourmet (25800 Central Parkway), the first Cuyahoga County restaurant for industry vet Ricky Ly, opened January 2 in Beachwood.

A handsome orchestration of wood, Eastern artwork, and soaring windows, the newly constructed, 156-seat space serves up a serene, contemporary vibe, complemented by cloth napkins and white-porcelain dishware. And the pan-Asian menu is a whopper, crammed with Thai, Vietnamese, and Chinese options, including more than a dozen vegetarian possibilities.

While minimal signage makes finding the spot a challenge, we discovered it last week, tucked into an office park near Chagrin Boulevard and I-271. Service was welcoming and reasonably polished, the kitchen's pacing proved well calibrated, and while our app choices turned out to be about as exotic as Twinkies, our two entrées were very good.

Never again, for instance, will we bother with the bland crab Rangoon ($4.50), with its mostly cream-cheese filling, or the sextet of petite Thai rolls ($6) that, while a marvel of crunchiness, had the dynamic range of Cheez-Its. On the other hand, the pad Thai ($12) ranked above average, with pure, clean flavors and tongue-tickling textural contrasts. And Green Mango Sea Bass, a $19 "Chef's Specialty" featuring dainty nuggets of tempuraed bass, topped with a juicy "salsa" of julienned green mango and fragrant fresh herbs, was an onslaught of rich, boisterous, and unexpected tastes and textures. (And don't give a second thought to the "spicy!" caveat on the menu; it simply isn't so.)

The restaurant also includes a well-appointed bar and lounge, featuring a menu of fruity cocktails (including an unbearably sweet $9 Mai Tai), and a well-thought-out wine list, starring Asian-food-friendly Rieslings, Sauvignon Blancs, and even a Viognier.

Ly and his family own seven other Asian restaurants throughout the region, including Ricky Ly's Chinese Gourmet in Belden Village (near Canton) and Pad Thai in Hudson. The new operation is open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. For reservations, call 216-360-7384.

Sorry, Charley . . . Meantime, Beachwood seafood stalwart Charley's Crab sank abruptly on January 1. Part of the C.A. Muer restaurant group, the 33-year-old landmark was bought by Houston-based Landry's in 2002; a company spokeswoman would say only that the spot was no longer "viable," and its lease had not been renewed. That leaves two Joe's Crab Shacks, in Columbus and Dayton, as Landry's only remaining holdings in Ohio. -- Cicora

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