The small and attentive waiter greeted us at our table. We were in a good mood. It was our first culinary experience in 14 months of quarantine.
From a variety of 24 entrees, the guest chose the do-it-yourself chicken lettuce wrap ($ 8): stir-fried chicken, lettuce with diced pineapple, peppers and Thai basil, served with a leaf of iceberg lettuce for packaging.
I needed an infusion of fresh vegetables, and Bangkok Kitchen boasts of serving them fresh and local when possible. My appetizer, 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 a protein, ranging from tofu ($ 13) to half a 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 the diner can choose the level of peppery heat for each dish – and the chef will do it right. I recognize that you can find this peculiarity in other Asian places, but I am always delighted that the restaurant goes to the trouble of offering the choice.
Bangkok Kitchen offers nine different curries with 12 different additions and five different degrees of heat. If I did the math correctly, that makes 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, Sushi Aperitifs and Rolls, Sashimi, Salads, Soups, Sautéed Starters, Bangkok Chef Special and Desserts.
From the 150 calculated choices, the guest requested Massaman curried shrimp. The menu described Massaman Curry as Thailand’s “famous curry stew” 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 lime tinge. Low on the Elander Curry heat scale, peppers 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 his Massaman Curry with Shrimp (Medium) ($ 15.95) and was happy with his 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 tastes and textures the chef has created.
When I was in college, we took my dad to eat meat and potatoes 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 occupied the tables. Dad ordered his usual in a Chinese restaurant: steak and fries. We gently berated him about “When in Rome…”, but he loved his meal and later in his life, in a bold move, started ordering Asian-style butterfly shrimp.
Today I smiled at his stubborn resistance to Asian cuisine 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 crunchy salad with a lightly sweet dressing, a bowl of red and black miso soup, and a snowball of white or brown rice ($ 1 extra).
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 would have loved to sample 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 Troy Schenectady Road, Latham; 518-608-4809; bangkokkitchenalbany.com
WHEN: Tuesday-Thursday, 11 am-9.30pm, Friday, 11 am-10.30pm, Saturday, 11 am-10.30pm, Sunday 11.30am-9.30pm
HOW MUCH: $ 60.85 without taxes or tip
MORE INFO: Parking in front, accessible to disabled people, credit cards accepted, take out, pickup, gift cards, sushi, stir-fry, bar, lunch
More from The Daily Gazette:
Categories: Food, Life and the Arts