At the table: full menu, attention to detail that sets this cuisine apart
The small and attentive waiter greeted us at our table. We were in a high mood. It was our first culinary experience in 14 months of quarantine.
From a variety of 24 entrees, guests chose the Do-It-Yourself Chicken Wrap ($ 8): stir-fried chicken, lettuce with diced pineapple, bell peppers and Thai basil, served with a leaf of iceberg lettuce for wrapping .
I needed an infusion of fresh vegetables, and Bangkok Kitchen boasts of serving them fresh and local when possible. My appetizer, the Spicy Basil ($ 13), consisted entirely of fresh vegetables sautéed in a light sweet and sour sauce. The traditional sautéed chili, garlic, onions, carrots, bamboo shoots, green beans, and Thai basil were sautéed in a mild sauce, which did not overpower the vegetables. Diners could choose to add protein, ranging from tofu ($ 13) to half duck ($ 22.95), with a $ 1 upgrade for brown rice. But this simple dish did not require any other adornment to be spectacular.
One aspect of the menu that I enjoyed is that dinner can choose the level of peppery heat of each dish – and the chef will do that well. I recognize that you can find this feature in other Asian places, but I’m always happy that the restaurant takes the trouble to offer the choice.
Bangkok Kitchen offers nine different curries with 12 different additions and five different degrees of heat. If I did the math correctly, it’s 648 variations. The preference for brown rice over white more than doubles the choices. Without going through all the combinations and permutations, there are around 150 offers under a number of headings such as Signature rolls, appetizers and sushi rolls, sashimi, salads, soups, stir-fries, the Bangkok Chef Special and the desserts.
From the 150 calculated choices, the guest requested Massaman’s curry shrimp. The menu describes Massaman Curry as Thailand’s “famous baked curry” with sweet potatoes, onions and peanuts, with your choice of meats and fried shallots. Easily enough for two big meals, not a spoonful was brought home.
Thai massaman curry is a blend of sweet and spicy in a rich, creamy sauce with a hint of lime. Low on the Elander Curry heat scale, chilies have yet to make their own heat when ripe, the spices are milder in flavor, and the coconut milk adds sweetness. The guest asked for “sweet” for their Massaman curry with shrimp (medium) ($ 15.95) and was happy with their choice. He felt the excessive heat would mask the subtle flavors. With too much of the hot spice, it’s hard to appreciate the artistic mix of taste and texture the chef has created.
When I was in college, we took my meat and potato dad to dinner at a Chinese restaurant to give him some “culture.” The restaurant was warmly old-school, one had to climb a flight of stairs to reach the dining room, and the owners’ young children took the bus to the tables. Dad ordered his usual in a Chinese restaurant: steak and fries. We kindly warned him, “When in Rome…” but he loved his meal and later in life in a bold move he started ordering Asian style butterfly shrimp.
Today I smiled at his stubborn resistance to Asian food by ordering a rack of marinated and grilled lamb chops. They were small and perfect, five tender chops, each a winner.
Each dinner was accompanied by a crispy salad with a lightly sweet dressing, a red and black bowl of miso soup, and a snowball of white or brown rice (extra $ 1).
It is unusual to see such an extensive menu in an Asian restaurant. It wasn’t the variety or even the local produce that made this place so special, but rather the way the staff interacted with the food. I wish I had sampled some of the other items: Fried Soft Shell Crab ($ 8), Tom KHA ($ 5.95), King Curry Fried Rice with Half a Duck ($ 22.95).
W: 1207, chemin Troy Schenectady, Latham; 518-608-4809; bangkokkitchenalbany.com
WHEN: Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Friday, 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Sunday 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
HOW MUCH: $ 60.85 without tax or tip
MORE INFO: Parking in front, handicapped accessible, credit cards accepted, take out, pick up, gift cards, sushi, stir fry, bar, lunch
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