I tried to park at Blue Spice Restaurant the evening that
Ruth Fantasia’s review appeared in the Times Union,
and there wasn’t a space to be had. I didn’t read the paper
that day, and sensed no trouble when I made my reservation.
But after sneaking my car into a neighboring lot, I entered
a dining room filled to capacity—except for the table they
were holding for me.
after our meal was well under way did I see owner Judy Somboon
displaying the TU page to a customer; I finally understood
what I’d wandered into.
my hat to the kitchen and floor staff, who coped with what
must have been a bombshell with effective doggedness. None
of our dishes seemed to be much delayed, but there was a bit
of an assembly-line feeling. Still, the busyness of the place
added enough of a layer of pressure that we decided to make
another visit once the review had worn off a little.
was much less full when I returned a couple of weeks later
for a late lunch, and service was friendly and unhurried,
more of a reflection, I think, of what prompted many people
to recommend the place to me.
Spice is housed in what looks like a converted fast-food place,
with classier-looking tables draped in blue and a modest array
of decorations across the walls. A cheerful use of flowers
throughout the place offsets the need for a new floor.
husband, Pinpong, is the restaurant’s chef, offering an extensive
dinner menu that includes such entrées as boneless duck in
a ginger-tamarind sauce (gaanplo duck, $18), salmon,
shrimp and scallops in a green curry coconut milk sauce (seafood
bouillabaisse, $19), and pineapple cashew (chicken and shrimp
with pineapple, mushrooms, scallions and cashews, served,
of course, in a pineapple shell, $17).
Spice duck ($18), which my daughter demanded, also features
a tamarind sauce that gives the meat some sweetness, and includes
crisped eggplant among the accompanying vegetables.
and stir-fry dishes run in the $12-to-$13 range, with stir-fry
combos like mixed vegetables with garlic sauce (Blue Valley),
spicy basil (with onion, peppers, bamboo shoots and zucchini)
and On the Green, a sautée with Thai peanut sauce.
all gustatory evidence to suggest otherwise, my wife continues
to take tofu seriously, and was happy to order it in a stir-fry
with carrots, zucchini and shiitake mushrooms. Set off with
ginger and cilantro, served over jasmine rice, it offered
a smooth balance of flavors that veered into satisfyingly
tangy areas without being heat-spicy.
is the menu list where you’ll also find the red, green, yellow,
panang and masaman curries, all coconut-milk-based
but running in different seasoning directions, as well as
a delightful dish that I enjoyed: Blue Mango curry, a red
curry that sports mango, pineapple, green peppers, citrus
and basil with the meat of your choice—in my case, chicken.
Pork, tofu or a vegetable mix are also available; add a buck
for beef, $3 for duck, shrimp or scallops and $6 for a seafood
add-the-meat (or veg) -of-your-choice schedule works with
the rice and noodle dishes ($10 to $12), beginning with the
well-known pad Thai and including other favorites like
pad see eew (flat noodles, egg and vegetables), kee
mao (a “drunken noodles” dish) and house creation Blue
Spice noodles: a citrus-garlic-herb sauce over linguini noodles
and the usual array of veggies and such.
an appetizer of fresh basil rolls ($6), which were crunchy
and sweet, the vegetable and rice- noodle filling accented
by broad fresh basil leaves. Other apps ($5 to $7) include
chicken satay, edamame, steamed dumplings, crab
cakes, calamari and potstickers.
sour soup goes by the name of Shrimp tom yum ($5),
a delightful broth with mushrooms and scallions seasoned with
lemongrass and cilantro. Tofu noodle soup ($4, my wife’s choice,
of course) puts an array of ingredients (peas, shiitake mushrooms,
scallions, garlic, rice noodles) in a clear, easygoing broth.
for lower-priced versions for lunch, where most entrées are
$8—entrées like chicken red or panang curry, chicken
pad Thai, beef kee mao and beef masaman
curry. My daughter had the bluefinger chicken, sporting fried
chicken fingers in a peanut sauce over jasmine rice. The sauce
sounded appealing but proved to be sweeter than expected,
almost to the point of tasting cloying.
beef salad (yum nuar, $8) was superb, with a bed of
fresh greens topped by grilled, seasoned beef set off by lemon
juice, tomatoes, scallions, cilantro and more.
been keeping an eye on the Blue Spice parking lot since my
first visit, and it’s been impressively busy for lunch and
dinner both. Without overestimating the influence of this
column, I’d like to think that a few more cars may be added
in the coming days, so pace yourself accordingly. But when
you do get in, you’re going to enjoy it.