For a second time, East has met West on the corner of State Street and Erie Boulevard in Schenectady.
My wandering friend Gail returned to Schenectady for an extended stay. Since we both enjoy Thai food, we decided to dine at the relatively new Thai Thai Bistro. The restaurant had evolved from the Bangkok Thai Bistro, which had been at that location for six years.
Two steps led from the entrance/bar area to the long, narrow dining room, which had been gently redecorated. The tin ceiling and mural from the original Nicolaus’ were still in place, and the walls were painted a soft gold color.
Thai wall hangings and ornaments decorated the walls. The brick, thankfully, remained unpainted.
Server Kim promptly delivered our menus and appeared unobtrusively throughout the meal. She patiently answered our endless questions as we pored over the dozen pages of the menu.
Gail and I ordered glasses of Thai wine and beer, and the evening’s appetizer specials: Thai Baht (literally Thai money) for $3, and Shrimp Wasabi Shu Mai ($7).
Thai Thai Bistro
WHERE: 268 State St., Schenectady. 518-1110 (or 1111), www.thaithaibistrony.com
WHEN: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Tuesday; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Wednesday-Friday; noon-10 p.m. Saturday; noon.-9 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $97 with tax and tip but without alcoholic beverages
MORE INFO: Two stairs inside, street parking, all major credit cards accepted, reservations by phone
Four bite-sized baht — lightly fried chicken marinated with Thai spice topped with crushed peanuts and cilantro in a cucumber chutney and plum sauce — arrived quickly, and were consumed posthaste.
The considerable amount of heat in the shrimp appetizer slowed us down a little. The pale green steamed dumpling wrappers (shu mai), were colored and seasoned by wasabi,, making a suitable foil for the tamer Thai Baht.
While we sipped and nibbled, we studied the menu.
Gail began her meal with Seaweed Salad, which arrived piled high in a cocktail glass. “There is an effort here to make it a real salad,” noted Gail as she dug into the shredded carrots, slivered cucumbers, and of course, seaweed, lightly tossed with ponzu sauce.
Her wonton soup was dismissed as “a little watery.” My traveling friend admitted to being a newcomer to sushi, but being adventurous, she ordered two rolls from the sushi bar: Proctors Roll and Pui’s Roll.
When the dual rolls appeared on the large square white plate, Gail noted, “you eat with your eyes.” And indeed we did. Pui’s Roll ($15) was artistically arranged in a circle with a lobster tail jumping into the center.
One piece sent Gail into culinary ecstasy. “This is fantastic!” she exclaimed. I found my sample, composed of tempura lobster, avocado, spicy crab salad, topped with eel and avocado, spicy mayo and ell [sic!] sauce, too rich and a bit fishy.
Proctors’ namesake (crab, cream cheese, asparagus, avocado and cucumber) was a nice complement to the spicier Pui’s roll.
I counted 20 other rolls, several named after Schenectady landmarks like Union College Roll ($12) and GE Roll ($8).
The Bistro Deluxe ($49) was composed of two rolls (rainbow and spicy tuna), 10 pieces of sushi, and 16 pieces of sashimi.
My Crispy Duck ($19) was beautifully presented, moist, and indeed crispy. The half duck was topped with basil and served with steamed vegetables and a scoop of rice.
According to their website, the Bistro offers “dishes from all corners of Thailand and beyond with our savory sushi bar . . . curries from the south of Thailand, delicious salads from the Northeastern countryside, and delectable countrywide stir fries and chef specials.”
The extensive menu included other categories: soup ($5-6), salad ($5-9), fried rice ($13-15), crazy noodle ($13), bistro stir fried ($14), from the grill ($14-19), bistro curry ($15-18), chef’s specials ($15-24), and dessert.
Gail did not have room for dessert. I always do. My choice from the six was Thai custard ($6). But you might choose sticky rice with mango or fried ice cream. All are in the $5-6 range.
Thai custard is more like a firm, sweeter version of my Norwegian grandmother’s rice pudding. The long narrow dish had three small squares of custard decorated by small dollops of whipped cream, each attractively dotted with a maraschino cherry half.
As with most Asian restaurants, dishes are ranked in heat from a smoking three stars down to a wimpy no stars.
I’ve mentioned in other reviews that my test of a good restaurant is whether I would return. Gail and I are already deciding what we’ll choose next from the menu.
Ponzu sauce is a light vinaigrette made from lemon and lime juices, rice vinegar, soy sauce, mirin (sweet rice wine), katsuobushi (tuna flakes) and seaweed. Translated from Japanese, the name means vinegar punch.