Central Ave., Albany, 489-4840. Serving Mon-Fri 11-10, Sat-Sun
noon-10. AE, D, MC, V.
Thai and sushi
price range: $8 (Khao soi soup) to $20 (Goong pad phrik—shrimp
in chili sauce)
just the excellent Thai food that awaits. It’s the fact that
you can order a $7 bowl of khao soi for lunch ($8 for
dinner) and enjoy an amazingly fulfilling meal. It features
chicken and two types of noodle along with other flavorful
leaves and shoots, and it swims in a coconut-scented curry
that livens the palate without causing incendiary damage.
In short, this can be one of your more economical stops at
this relatively new eatery. You can also dine (as I often
do) as if you’ve not eaten in weeks, and make your way from
appetizer to miso soup to this entrée and that, guaranteeing
that you’ll leave laden with take-home containers.
And this is happening in a most unprepossessing space in an
unlikely part of Albany. Not far from the intersection of
Central Avenue and Everett Road is a Home Depot. Enter the
parking lot, but veer left. A small strip mall sits near the
highway, and you’ll find, after a glance or two, the frills-free
space that is Capital Thai.
How long has it been hiding here? Seven months, I was told
during a recent visit. Three months, I was told a month ago.
No matter. It’s here and, based on the dinner crowd that arrived
during my own dinner last week, it’s being discovered.
It couldn’t be much plainer. Save for a few decorative wall
hangings, this could be just about any kind of low-budget
dining room. There’s a sushi bar against one wall and, of
course, the aromas confirm the window-sign promise of Thai
food. That’s one of those at-first-glance jarring combinations
that we’ve grown to expect as sushi stations greet us in just
about all Asian restaurants.
Order by the individual piece of sushi ($1.50 to $2) or by
the roll, many of which are fish-free ($3.75 to $8.50), or
avail yourself of the lunch or dinner combos listed on the
regular menu, which range from the $8 vegetarian-sushi lunch
to a massive all- inclusive dinner special priced at 10 times
Although I confined myself to an Alaska roll ($5.25), one
of the Americanized varieties, the lengthy, check-what-you-want
additional menu includes most of the traditional varieties,
including tempura rolls.
Not surprisingly, then, tempura figures into the regular menu,
on the appetizer list, alongside typical Thai fare like satay
($5), the dumplings called gyoza ($5), and pla meuk
thot (fried squid, $7).
Gyoza dumplings (choose a beef or vegetable filling) are fried
to sturdy crispness, served with a curried dipping sauce you’ll
be tempted to finish on its own. Fried tofu ($4) looks like
fried toast, with a side of gingery peanut sauce.
A version of the deep-fried pastry known as samosa ($5),
most commonly found on Indian menus, featured a similar potato-veg
filling with added chicken and scallions; it’s presented with
a thick chili sauce. And each of these starters is deceptively
Nevertheless, we added an order of seaweed salad ($4) because
my daughter is hooked on the sesame-infused flavor.
With eight different duck preparations on the menu, this place
means business. I’ve yet to try any, although the fascinatingly
named lard prik duck ($15 lunch, $17 dinner) will be
first: A duck half is filled with broccoli, onions, peppers,
scallions and spicy chili.
Thai leads the noodle-dish list. Sampled on a previous
visit, it’s a lively example of the traditional combo of noodles,
sprouts, egg, peanuts and your choice of meat (which is how
the noodle dishes are priced, ranging from $7 to $9 for lunch,
$9 to $11 for dinner).
One menu feature I find delightful is a listing of accompaniments.
That is, you choose a main ingredient—chicken, pork, beef
or tofu ($7, $9); shrimp, squid or scallops ($9, $11)—then
add another dominant flavor. Baby corn, for instance, or mixed
vegetables with oyster sauce. Or garlic, cashews or sweet-and-sour
sauce. My wife chose chicken with ginger and was pleased with
additional scallions, peppers, straw mushrooms and more, finished
in a ginger-spiced bean sauce.
When I asked for the spiciest of the curries, I was led to
red. It didn’t prove to be all that heat-intense, but it lacked
nothing in flavor. And it’s one of several varieties, again
priced according to main ingredient.
Once you sample the khao soi, I promise you’ll be hooked.
And thus will join an international cadre of fanatics who
celebrate this multicultural dish. You’re most likely to find
it in a Thai eatery, because Burmese restaurants are far fewer.
The dish is a staple of northern Thailand, but betrays a Muslim
origin in its use of meat and Burmese provenance in its name—and
there’s even a similarity to Malaysian laksa. The received
speculation about the origins of khao soi suggests
that its name comes from a Thai phrase meaning “to go down
the lane,” but more credible speculation relates to the Burmese
term khauk-hswe, which refers to the making of noodles.
An unusual (for Thai food) conflation of spices also marks
it as something more cosmopolitan. The curry is light, poured
over noodles and meat, and it’s topped with fried noodles
and a dollop of coconut cream. Alongside is served a dish
of cilantro, chopped onion and a slice of lime, a simplified
version of what can include pickled mustard greens, fried
shallots, mung beans and more.
Capital Thai may be short on looks, but with a staff of friendly,
eager servers and food finished with vibrant flavors, you’ll
do as I’ve done and return quickly. Because it also happens
to be one of the best bargains in town.
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
Troy Waterfront Farmers’ Market manager and occasional
Metroland writer Amy Halloran is offering
another of her popular food-related classes: “Remember
your favorite meal and all the feelings and people
that surround it? Mining your memories, we will
work to create brief verbal snapshots of eating
with sweethearts, family and friends. In-class
writing exercises will inspire you to work on
short essays at home, which we will work on the
following week. By the end of a month, you should
have a piece of writing that captures the emotional
taste of a memorable experience.” Recipe for
Writing will be offered Tuesdays, May 6 through
27, from 10 to noon at the Arts Center of the
Capital Region (265 River Street, Troy). More
info and registration: 273-0552 or artscenteronline.org.
. . . A food-and-wine event to benefit Schenectady
Day Nursery takes place from 5:30-8 PM April 24
in the VanCurler Room of Schenectady County Community
College. A Little Bit of Jazz and More
will feature hors d’oeuvres, a pasta station,
a carving station and chocolate fondue by Schenectady
County Community College students—and a wine tasting.
Make reservations (tickets are $50) by calling
Wendy Voelker at 312-0562. . . . Remember to pass
your scraps to Metroland (firstname.lastname@example.org).