Father and son Taweewat and Dejthana Hurapan are on a roll. The Thai-food-consuming populace of the Upper West and East sides already associate the family name with Asian cooking: Both men have been chefs at two different branches of the pan-Asian chain Rain. Now they've teamed up in one kitchen — Hurapan Kitchen, in the West Village.
In the small, angular restaurant, whose glassed-in front hardly distinguishes it from many similar places along the avenue, the Hurapans serve polished Thai cooking, seamlessly broadened and Westernized without losing its vernacular edge. The flagship dish, taking up two tables and an entire page of the menu, is a cook-your-own hot pot, for $35 a person with a two-person minimum. First to arrive is the wide ceramic bowl of broth: either mild chicken-ginseng or tom yum that's sour with lemongrass and lime. It reduces as it cooks over a tabletop burner, becoming shallower, spicier, and more viscous until one of the efficient fleet of servers tops off the bowl with plain hot water.
When the broth comes up to a simmer, the other part of the meal arrives: a substantial tray of crushed ice, lit from within with flashing white LED bulbs and bearing dozens of cookables. Shrimps large and small, a lobster tail, mussels and clams, sliced scallops, sashimi-size filets of tuna, salmon, and other fishes; pretty lotus roots, various mushrooms, bok choy and cabbage, eggplant, corn on the cob, tangled noodles, quail eggs, tofu; and fist-size knots of thinly sliced raw beef, lamb, pork, and chicken all wait to be dipped in the cooking pot for a moment or two.
It's altogether too much food, leaving no room for appetizers or dessert even if you leave half the meats on the ice — which may happen anyway, since untangling individual sheets from each clump is almost impossible. There's a reason other hot-pot joints serve theirs laid out in separate rolls. The flashing bulbs under the ice become a warning of unwieldy bounty: it's too much to eat and a little hard to handle, but comforting and delicious.
When the kitchen is left in charge of the cooking, however, there's a lot more complexity. Starters like a tuna roll ($10) offer clever elaborations: It's like a sushi roll, and pickled ginger on the side completes the illusion, but the wrapper is hot, flaky roti bread, not seaweed, and the combination is an unexpected treat. Cool summer rolls ($7) are spruced up with a tropical smear of avocado, and a classic Thai steak salad ($11) pairs juicy, well-crisped beef with crunchy apple shreds and spicy lime dressing. With an odd lack of integration, crisp, mahogany-skinned chunks of duck come alongside a green papaya salad ($9); the flavor contrast is good, but seeing such tasty morsels sidelined like a garnish rather than added to the salad is momentarily nonplussing.
Excellent versions of traditional noodle dishes, pad thai ($12) and pad see ew ($12), put in an appearance on the main course list, but fancier fare dominates. Beef short ribs and potatoes share a nutty massaman curry ($17) in a fine, hearty marriage of sweetness and spice. A whole fish ($26), fried and sauced with sweet chili, is served off the bone, but with its head and tail arranged as decoration. Some of the dishes, reaching for modern touches, seem to lose their solid Thai footing. Laksa typically refers to a noodle soup, but Hurapan's creamy lobster laksa curry ($23) is a noodleless orange pool from which the hollow shell of a lobster's head stares. Next to the head is the meaty tail — the limbs and midsection of the creature do not report for duty — and a scattering of mushrooms and, unexpectedly, whole okra pods. Its curry flavor is pleasantly complex, but the dish, which should be a showpiece of the menu, is lacking in literal and figurative meat. There's plenty of meat elsewhere, including on the nearly half a chicken that's grilled and plopped in a thick, mild cream sauce ($17) with no hint of the lemongrass or ginger the menu promises.
Desserts, including sweet spring rolls ($7) and roti-wrapped ice cream ($6), don't offer much beyond a reprise of the hot pot's flashing LEDs. A half-dozen spice-friendly wines are offered, but twice a server warned us, not inaptly, that beer would suit the meal better. The owners' experience pays off in a number of obvious ways, most notably in the service. A particular deliberate quirk is common to all the servers: They narrate as they work. "I'm going to move these shrimp chips off to the side to make room for your salads, which will be right out, and I'll bring you a couple of little plates for sharing." It might be annoying if it were a clumsy interruption, but charm carries the day, and the effect is soothing and hospitable.
Hurapan Kitchen (29 Seventh Ave. South, near Morton Street, 212-727-2678).