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Don’t Pass By Capital Thai

June 28, 2012

When the MHK first set down roots in Albany, NY seven years ago, there seemed to be a dearth of quality ethnic food options, save for Indian and Vietnamese. But over the last few years, things have changed. A couple of years ago a fantastically delicious and authentic Chinese place opened, and as we mentioned in a recent post, we now have a very good taqueria-style Mexican joint. The Thai options still remain hit-or-miss, though we had come across one that did at least some dishes very well. But last week we tried Capital Thai – we heard good things about it (mainly from people who grew up around here, so we were a bit skeptical), and as it turns out, the dishes we sampled were very tasty and very authentic. Pretty soon all we’ll need is a Moroccan place and we’ll be golden.

Capital Thai seems a little fancier than it is – white tablecloths adorn the tables, even at lunch. The décor is minimal with images of Thailand on the walls – but it’s a nice, inviting space. We were handed a fairly extensive menu to peruse, along with a separate sushi menu. I don’t know what it is about all the Asian restaurants around here feeling like they all have to have sushi, even in a place that should be strictly Thai – I guess sushi makes money for some reason, regardless of where you are eating (though I will happily note that Van’s does not offer sushi, and I hope they never will). The appetizer menu at Capital Thai is also spread all over the map – classic Thai dishes like chicken or tofu satay, shrimp cakes, and fried tofu are on there, along with Japanese dishes like gyoza and tempura, and a nod to India with the samosa offering. We started with the fried tofu, served with a plum-peanut sauce. The tofu was cooked perfectly, golden brown and firm on the outside with a fluffy and tender middle. The dipping sauce was also very good, salty from the peanuts but very sweet as well – a little of the hot chili sauce they brought to the table made it a very appetizing appetizer.

Among the soup offerings are tom yum goong (hot and sour shrimp and lemongrass), tom ka gai (chicken soup with coconut milk), and the glass noodle soup. It was a warm day so we eschewed the soups and turned our attention to the salads, among which include the very authentic som tom (spicy papaya salad) and the larb gai (spicy Thai chicken salad), along with the yum woon-sen (mungbean noodle salad) and of course the traditional American-ized Thai garden salad. We are big som tom fans, so we had to see how Capital Thai’s version was – and it did not disappoint. The sweet papaya could have been a little more firm, but otherwise it was superb. Upon ordering, our server asked us how spicy we wanted this dish, to which we of course replied, “SPICY!” And they did not Albany-ify it for us – they brought the heat, and it was delicious. The crunchy bean sprouts, the acid from the tomatoes and lime juice, and the salty fish sauce created a wonderful variety of flavors on the palette. It was topped with dried shrimp, something we hadn’t seen on this dish before, and in the future, we’ll have them omit it. In southern Thailand, according to our server, this dish is traditionally eaten with these firm little shrimps on top, while in northern Thailand they put anchovies on the dish instead. But aside from that, our lips were burning in a very welcome manner.

Entrees at Capital Thai run the gamut – curries, fried rice, noodles, seafood, and duck dishes abound, assuring there is something for everyone. Interesting-sounding dishes we didn’t try include the spicy eggplant with basil, the garlic fish, the crispy half duck, and the classic Mussamun curry with meat, peanuts, potato and onion. We did want to try one of the curries, so we went with green (they also have red and yellow in a couple different varieties). Bamboo shoot, bell peppers, basil, pork, and coconut milk made up Capital Thai’s green curry – the flavor was quite good, the pork was very tender, and the broth was pretty thick and creamy; creamier than we’d seen before, and in fact was probably a little too creamy – the dish was very rich, not what you’d expect from Thai curry. But it just meant leftovers for the next day.

Mrs. MHK is a big Pad Thai fan, and in our seven years here, she has gone unsatisfied in that department – until now. Pad Thai is a national dish of Thailand, made popular in the 1930’s and 40’s, and is probably the most well-known Thai dish in the U.S. A lot of foodies tend to snub their nose at the dish, thinking it has lost its authenticity as it gained popularity. But when it’s done right, it’s very tasty, and Capital Thai does it right. Noodles are mixed with tofu, bean sprouts, egg, and peanuts and sometimes a meat (we got chicken on this occasion) – the sauce is where many places fail at the dish, making it too sweet and/or thick. But Capital Thai’s was great, just slightly sweet and lightly tossed with the noodles, enough to bind the dish together but still let the individual ingredients shine. We were very pleased.

Capital Thai’s prices are fairly standard for Thai cuisine – appetizers range from $4-$8, soups from $4-$10 (many soups are offered in small or large sizes – the large ones go up to $15), salads from $4-$10, rice and noodle dishes range from $8-$12, and entrees go from $9-$22 (the upper end of the scale are for dinner-sized portions). We are excited to go back and try more dishes at what seems to be a terrific addition to the growing quality ethnic food market in the Albany area.

The Mouse House Kitchen gives Capital Thai 4 out of 5 stars!

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