Thai’d Up In The Kitchen With Spice

Thursday, Aug 20, 2009 12:02pm  |  COMMENTS (21)

Thai Duck.jpg
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.


takeoutbanquet.jpg 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. Special salad.jpg
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.

21 Comments

  1. POSTED BY Anne Prince  |  August 20, 2009 @ 1:36 pm

    I absolutely LOVE Spice Thai and Rodgee and Yada are masters at what they produce.
    I have never ordered off the menu (well except for the curry puffs, duck egg rolls and the fried beef strips), prefering to have the chefs make me something of their choice. Last time I had an awesome duck noodle dish that was to die for. And yes Annette, the mango/sticky rice is awesome and a perfect way to end a spicy meal. Hint: bring a nice refreshing reisling to have with your meal – it’s a perfect pairing for the spicy food.
    BTW guys….about 5-7 of us will be in Wednesday night so look for me then!

  2. POSTED BY Karen Banda  |  August 20, 2009 @ 2:25 pm

    I’m confused. Is this the same owner with a new chef and menu or entirely new management?

  3. POSTED BY Rob  |  August 20, 2009 @ 2:28 pm

    So “Spice” and “Spice II” aren’t related? If so, maybe I should give the former a try…because I’m definitely not a fan of the latter.

  4. POSTED BY Annette Batson  |  August 20, 2009 @ 3:13 pm

    Karen,
    SPICE Thai Cuisine on Belleville Ave is completely separate and unrelated to SpiceII in Montclair. Rodgee Cao is the new owner.

  5. POSTED BY Karen Banda  |  August 20, 2009 @ 4:54 pm

    Thanks Annette. I read about Sherry’s new restaurant in Montclair but didn’t realize she’d sold the Bloomfield one to someone else.

  6. POSTED BY hs neighbor  |  August 20, 2009 @ 7:42 pm

    I’ll try this restaurant but haven’t found anything to beat Pat Thai who use to be on Bloomfield Ave and is now in Parsippany. It’s worth the drive and her mom makes the most delicious desserts.

  7. POSTED BY Tommy Salami  |  August 21, 2009 @ 11:23 am

    Had the pad thai here and was impressed! A nice clean place with quick service and a solid menu- no real surprises, but all you’d expect from a thai restaurant. Parking is a bit miserable unless you park in the A&P lot across the street. I’m walking distance thankfully.
    This used to be PDV’s Italian hot dogs ways back. They’ve remodeled it nicely.

  8. POSTED BY nochooches  |  August 24, 2009 @ 3:45 pm

    Yummmmm, mango with sticky rice. I had this delicious dessert at a Thai restaurant in Jacksonville, FL about 6 yrs ago, and I’ve been looking for a place to match that taste sensation. Looks like I’ll have to give Spice a try!

  9. POSTED BY gerryup  |  September 19, 2009 @ 10:04 am

    I have read this review and I thought I should try this restaurant. I have been noticing some changes in the look of this little thai place for quite sometime now, e.g., the flowering plants outside and some beautiful hanging stained glass visible from the outside. Well, what a find!!!! I was told by the friendly staff that they just finished repainting the interior. It looks cozy and beautiful inside. I have been to Bangkok before and I can attest that the food here has that real Thai taste. The new appetizer, coconut shrimp, is to die for. The duck roll and the steamed chicken dumplings are delicious. My friend and I shared an order of mango salad, duck garlic, yum eggplant, pad kra pao tilapia (suggested by the owner which is done the real thai taste), and the sweet sticky rice w/ mango and coconut cream on top for dessert. Everything was simply delicious and tasty. We were telling ourselves how could we have missed this place for a long time. Spice Thai Cuisine, you have found some new admirers and we will recommend to our friends to come with us next time we feellike having some good thai food.

  10. POSTED BY Annette Batson  |  September 28, 2009 @ 9:50 pm

    I took the family here for dinner Sunday night. We all loved it. Once again, Rodgee took the liberty of selecting our appetizers and they were all winners. Standouts were again the chicken dumplings with a soy and crispy garlic dipping sauce, the tasty duck rolls, and green mango/cashew salad. All approved and devoured by the kid committee. For mains, the kids went for the Pad Thai (one with shrimp, one with pork). I asked for a surprise dish with basil and/or lemongrass – my favorite Thai seasonings…and a little heat. The man and I were served a spicy New Zealand mussel dish in a lemongrass/basil broth, with a side of pepper-lime pesto type sauce. Then came the crispy duck with fried basil leaves. Both beautiful presentations and an explosion of tastes. We didn’t have room for dessert, we said, but Rodgee brought out one fried ice cream and one sticky rice w/mango. Guess what, we ate it all. We’re like thai gluttons. Never mind. Alex, my 16-year-old told me, “thai is my new favorite foreign food.” P.S. the restaurant is cozy, pretty, and comfortable.

  11. POSTED BY Jane Califf  |  October 23, 2009 @ 10:45 pm

    My sister-in-law and I visited Spice on Oct. 21, 2009. It is a small, cozy restaurant that is attractively decorated. All of the food was delicious. We had appetizers (curry puffs and steamed chicken dumplings); Tom Ka Soup with mushrooms, lime juice, lemon grass, chili and coconut milk; Gai Ma Muang (stir fried crispy chicken with cashews, onion, scallion, peppers and special Thai sauce); Pad See Elw (stir fried flat noodle, black bean sauce, Chinese broccoli, tofu).
    Since we had a delayed birthday celebration, Rodgee Cao, the owner and chef, brought me a dish of fried green tea ice cream with a lighted candle. It was amazing!
    Mr. Cao will adjust the menu to suit your taste. He is a most attentive host who wants to make sure his guests are happy and satisfied with the food. I know I will be bringing more family members and friends back to this restaurant soon.

  12. POSTED BY Cassandra  |  December 21, 2009 @ 5:01 pm

    Grover and I frequently eat at Spice Thai cuisine in Bloomfield. We absolutely love the food this accomplished Chef prepares. He and the co-owner prepare exquisite food and have a loyal group of customers.
    Last night, December 20th, we decided to take a break from our boring chores and celebrate the first snowfall in our favorite cozy and beautifully decorated restaurant. As I have mentioned to others before, I prefer patronizing local restaurants and shops.
    Rogee, our wonderful host, brought us some delicious chicken and lemon grass soup. It was absolutely delicious and so appropriate for this type of weather. Next, we had our usual favorite dishes: Gai Ma Muang and Pad Ka Na. After we ordered coffee, Rogee surprised us with a delicious mango ice cream. I had tried to resist this type of temptation, but it was impossible.
    I love the way the food is served. Anyone wanting to celebrate the Winter Solstice, this is the place to go. Consider giving someone a Spice gift card so that they can enjoy a wonderful meal in the company of loved ones.

  13. POSTED BY frankgg  |  January 18, 2010 @ 5:36 pm

    What a surprize to see the new oppulent and warm interior. Rodgee is such an engaging and gracious host. The food is excellent and I especially love the dishes that are perfumed with coconut. I can’t wait to go back and to bring more friends.

  14. POSTED BY NTC  |  February 22, 2010 @ 11:28 am

    I catered from Spice Thai last December for a conference for about 120 people. I was impressed with the quality of the food and especially with the helpfulness of both the owner, Rodgee and the chef, Yada. They both worked with me to make sure I had the right quantity and variety of food. I look forward to working with them again.

  15. POSTED BY Tracy  |  February 22, 2010 @ 12:17 pm

    Best Thai food I have ever eaten. Truly a pleasure to patronize this restaurant.

  16. POSTED BY Maribel Perez  |  February 26, 2010 @ 9:28 pm

    My family had been to another Thai restaurant and had not fallen in love with it. However, at the request of a friend who bragged about Spice and in patronizing our town’s businesses, we decided to give it a try. Well, we ended up going back twice in a week – one just my husband and I and then as my son’s choice for his birthday. We were blown away. The atmosphere is lovely…not only is the decor relaxing and quaint, but the owner, Rodgee was wonderful. The place slowly filled up and we noticed that it was all repeat business! We have so far tried 6 of his entrees – all seasoned to our individual taste and each with its own flavor: Beef Rendang, Seafood Platter, Crispy Whole Fish, Guy Ma Muang, Duck Garlic and the Salmon. The appetizer sampler is a great way to become familiar with all the different seasonings. We did also have desert, although we came home with enough food to have dinner the following night! An added bonus for me not to have to cook an extra night. Our plan is to work our way through the menu. I highly recommend you visit Spice and meet Rodgee. You will enjoy his warmth, the atmosphere and delicious food.

  17. POSTED BY Tracy  |  February 27, 2010 @ 11:28 am

    Spice II is outta control delicious!

  18. POSTED BY Keri O.  |  February 28, 2010 @ 6:40 pm

    I have lived across the street from Spice Thai restaurant for 3+ years. I tried the food once when the previous owner was in the location and I was disappointed. I didn’t think I would EVER dine there again, but my colleague went there with his wife, who had spent a summer in Thailand and raved about the authenticity and the wonderful taste of the dishes she had at Spice Thai.
    Then I found that there were new owners so for my birthday in October, I decided to treat myself to dinner. Rodgee was an awesome host and I had a wonderful dining experience. The decor and music is calming and relaxing. The food is divine!! I am often picking up food to take home!
    Last night (2/27/10) my boyfriend got the chance to experience Spice Thai’s delicious food. We called and asked Rodgee if he could prepare Tamarind Duck, which is my boyfriend’s favorite. Rodgee not only made it special order, but the duck was absolutely DELICIOUS! My boyfriend, who lives in Brooklyn, said the food was worth the trip and definitely on par with and even better than some of the Thai he has had in the City.
    I would recommend Spice Thai to anyone. I recommended the restaurant to my aunt who also loves the food. The food is more than pleasing to the palate! You smile with every bite. The atmosphere and Rodgee are divine. My favorites: The chicken dumplings, shrimp fritters, pad thai and the thai basil noodles. I MUST try those duck rolls!! I would advise anyone to patronize this establishment!

  19. POSTED BY foodlover  |  April 11, 2010 @ 10:56 am

    Splendid – Perfect – Inexpensive – Culinary Excellence = SPICE.
    This is by far the best authentic Thai Restaurant we have ever been in. We’ve been to many other Thai restaurants in NJ and hands down Spice is the Best! Rodgee (the owner) is indeed a gracious host and having a great host always counts as it could make or break your culinary experience. From appetizer to entree this place offers a variety of wonderful dishes. Some of our favorites are Pad Thai (scrumptiously authentic), Tilapia Kra Pao (simply delicious), and Soft Shell Crab (with ground pork is available upon request and is a must!). So, if you’re is search of authentic Thai cuisine look no further as Spice is it. So, bring your own bottle and be prepared to be blown away! I guarantee that you’ll be back.

  20. POSTED BY ChurcherStreeeter  |  April 16, 2010 @ 8:21 am

    I am biased — I love this restaurant – for either eat in or take out. Hadn’t been there in a while, and am happy to report all is good. We recently had a takeout order which was simply amazing. The highlights: The mussels, in a spicy lemon grass broth were perfect, just the right amount of spice and not chewy (like a lot of mussel dishes can be).
    Soba Noodles with chicken and Thai basil. This is a new dish and it did not disappoint. The thick noodles are lightly coated with the Thai basil sauce. Kids loved them.
    Duck Rolls. Sweet and spicy. The best part about these rolls is the crunch from the fresh herbs and veggies.
    Sticky coconut rice with mango was dessert and it was (as always) awesome.
    We washed it all down with Thai ice tea. So refreshing, so sweet, with a good caffeine jolt.
    Rodgee, one of the owners, will take great care of you, and you’ll soon feel like family.

  21. POSTED BY Annette Batson  |  April 16, 2010 @ 9:46 pm

    Every time I eat here, I think “it can’t get better than this.” However, Rodgee seems to outdo himself with surprise dishes on the menu every time. Try his new entree, Tamarind Duck. OMG! And his deep fried green tea ice cream is definitely worth the calories!

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