Good Thai Food in Albany?June 21, 2010
Quality Thai food is something hard to come by here in the Albany, NY area. So when the MHK received a menu from Blue Spice Thai in the mail, it was initially met with great skepticism. But after scrutinizing the many dishes offered, some of the cynicism began to slip away as many of the items are true authentic Thai dishes, and we decided to give it a go. So is there actually good Thai food in the area? The answer is…yes and no.
The décor and overall feel of Blue Spice Thai is one of being at the beach. Soft blue colors are throughout, seashells adorn the walls and many of the tables featured large picnic table umbrellas – something I’m not sure I’ve ever seen indoors. There is also a rock garden with a small fountain; it all made for a very welcoming atmosphere.
We started with two appetizers – fresh basil rolls and grilled calamari. The basil rolls were very simple, just basil, carrots, cucumber and rice noodles rolled up in a soft rice paper wrapper, and served with a honey tamarind sauce. Sometimes a good judge of a restaurant’s quality is how well they do the simple dishes, and this one was great. The rolls were very fresh, and the sauce was delicious, adding great flavor to the natural blandness of the roll. One rarely sees grilled calamari on the menu – it’s almost always the deep-fried variety. But calamari steak is one of my favorite foods, so I was excited to see it on Blue Spice Thai’s menu. It was grilled to perfection – just lightly charred with great flavor, and was about as tender as calamari can get. It was served with a spicy plum-peanut sauce, and this condiment elevated the dish to superstardom. It was actually spicy (a rarity around here), and the vinegar was a fantastic match with the squid.
Blue Spice Thai has several soups, salads, curries, an extensive amount of fish dishes, and many noodle and rice options as well. We were feeling optimistic after our starters, so we ordered several more dishes: Som Tum papaya salad, larb gai chicken salad, green curry with beef, and Pad Thai with tofu. The two salads are very authentic Thai dishes; I’ve had papaya salad at other Thai restaurants, but never have I seen the larb gai. I only have knowledge of the dish from one of the MHK’s reader’s review of the food in Laos, so I was excited to see it offered. Unfortunately, neither dish was as good as I’d hoped. The papaya salad was very fresh – the papaya was shredded so it resembled noodles, and was tossed with tomatoes, string beans, garlic, chili, lemon juice and chopped peanuts. But it really lacked flavor – there was not nearly enough chili. The lemon juice was a nice touch, but next time I will order it “spicy” (they do say on the menu that each dish can be made with varying degrees of spiciness, but we were never asked by our server). The chicken salad had a little more flavor to it, consisting of ground chicken tossed with red onion, chili, lemon juice, roasted rice powder, scallions and cilantro. But it needed more seasoning, not just spice. From what I’ve read, larb should have piles of fresh herbs in it, which was not the case at Blue Spice.
Thai curries are very common, and Blue Spice runs the rainbow of flavors, from red to green, from the Indian-influenced yellow variety to their own Blue Mango curry. We tried the green, featuring thin-sliced beef with peas, pepper and green beans in a green curry coconut milk sauce. The broth was delicious – the sweetness of the coconut milk was nicely offset by a little spiciness. The beef was cooked very well, which is not easy to do when you have thin slices of meat. It was a very a good dish, but for some reason each curry is topped with a large chunk of eggplant tempura. As much as I love tempura, it was completely out of place – not just because tempura is Japanese, but because a piece of fried eggplant does not compliment Thai curry.
Pad Thai is a popular noodle dish, but Blue Spice’s unfortunately fell flat. The sauce was far too sweet, which drowned out any other flavoring in the dish. The tofu was also a little undercooked, so overall it was not a good Pad Thai.
They have several intriguing dishes that we did not get a chance to try, like the Veggie Spring Rolls (crispy fried rolls filled with vegetables and clear noodles, served with plum sauce & garlic cream sauce), Gaanploo Duck (crispy boneless duck immersed in ginger tamarind sauce, with fried shallot, crispy ginger and vegetables), and the Spicy Basil Fried Rice.
Blue Spice Thai does not serve alcohol, though we did hear that you can bring in your own for no charge. We had Thai iced tea and their homemade lemonade. The tea was pretty standard, but the lemonade was wonderful.
The service was very good, with the highlight being the gentleman who served the food to all the tables – he had a genuine smile plastered on his face with every food delivery, which to me fosters the attitude that if he’s happy to be serving the food, I’ll be happy eating it. The total bill came to just over $60 before tip, a decent value considering the leftovers. I will definitely give Blue Spice Thai another go, and next time I’ll be sure to ask them to make the dishes spicy.
The Mouse House Kitchen gives Blue Spice Thai 3 out of 5 stars!