I recently hosted the Baristanet staff on my back deck for a “working lunch.” There’s no better way to get people to show up on their day off than to offer a free lunch, so it was up to me to make sure it was going to be really good.
As it turns out, we all love Thai food, and I’d been wanting to try out Spice Thai Cuisine on Belleville Avenue in Bloomfield. Spice Thai Cuisine is the successor restaurant to Sheree Sarabhayavanija’s old Spice Thai restaurant, which moved to Montclair, across from the Wellmont, and is now flourishing as Spice II.
The new owner at the old Bloomfield location is Rodgee Cao, who brings a new chef, a new menu, and a pretty new dining room although he’s kept both the name and the same clientele. And – full disclaimer – we first heard about the “new” Spice when Cao began advertising with us.
I asked Cao to deliver lunch for eight – and to surprise us with a sampling of his best dishes. It was a relief not to have to choose myself, however I did put in a few requests for chef Yada: a soup, some vegetarian, mostly mild heat, pad thai of course, and anything with lemongrass, basil, or mint.
About twenty take-out boxes crowded the table, aromas filling the kitchen while we squealed in delight like kids opening gifts at a birthday party. What had arrived was a magnificent Baristanet banquet: dieters in the group were thrilled by a tasty Tom Yum Soup, the carb-free chicken larb redolent with mint, thai herbs, chili and lime juice, and the beautifully presented Special Spring Mix Salad with mango, avocado, strawberries, and kiwi – a perfectly balanced garlic ginger vinaigrette on the side.
Our shrimp pad thai was well received, as was a simple veggie fried rice, and Chicken Rama – a mild peanut and coconut curry. Those of us who like it hot especially raved about spicy Flat Noodle with Thai Basil and Chicken (sometimes called “drunken noodles”), and an amazing crispy duck dish with chilies, lots of lemongrass, and lime juice.
Chef Yada’s original dishes which have an asian fusion thing going on are a tasty surprise: her samosa-like vegetarian Curry Puffs are light, crispy, have a distinctive white pepper and potato filling, the Duck Rolls – fine pancakes filled with duck, cucumber, scallions, cilantro and plum sauce – are a delicious spin on Peking Duck, the special steamed dumplings – light and succulent – disappeared before we could say “soy dipping sauce.”
Good, but not outstanding, is Gai Ma Muang – a Thai version of cashew chicken, and the Crispy Beef appetizer, which after delivery got a bit chewy.
The surprise dish that knocked us out was a dish none of us had ever been inclined to taste: Mango with Sticky Rice! The contrast of the firm fresh mango with the delicate coconut-sweetened rice (not the glutinous sticky mess I expected) was a pleasing treat for the palate – scoring a very high wow-factor.
At Spice Thai Cuisine, the delight is in the details. Each dish spoke to us with distinct flavors, portions are generous, and the price is right. Lunch cost about $145 — but I was able to feed six people dinner with the left-overs. That means about $10 per person for a terrific Thai treat.
Stop by Spice Thai Cuisine for lunch and dinner, any day except Monday. There’s a $7 lunch special – main course plus soup or salad, and daily specials. Spice Thai Cuisine, 26 Belleville Avenue, Bloomfield, NJ. 973-748-0056.