If you’re still not convinced about excellent restaurants
that happen to be in strip malls… read on
Overall rating on a scale of 1-10
Service 10 Food 9 Ambiance 7 Price – $$$
This article is directed to all of those who may still be reluctant to try a restaurant simply because it’s located in a strip mall. I’ll ignore the fact that this means you have not been reading my recent reviews, many of which feature fantastic finds in your local plaza. So, although I am feeling slightly neglected, I will rise above (as I am a professional), and will share with you yet another restaurant that makes the case for dining at someplace worthwhile – no matter the location!
But, to be honest, upon pulling up to Sushi Thai at the Park in the Rite Aid Plaza in Clifton Park, I did have my doubts. Was it the fact that the windows were plastered with large color photos of menu items? Well, that didn’t help, but I tried not to pre-judge; after all that’s the lesson in this column. So, dining companion Peter and I walked in with a positive and open-minded attitude.
The evening couldn’t have gotten off to a better start. When we walked into the open, airy and modern space we were met with an immediate greeting; not simply from the hostess, but from what seemed to be the entire restaurant staff. And I am happy to report this was a constant theme we enjoyed throughout the evening. I can honestly say this was the most attentive service I’ve received at any restaurant in the area.
To keep it real, or at least semi-authentic, Peter started his meal with a small bottle of Sho Chiku Bai Gingo sake ($12) and I had a glass of Pinot Grigio ($5.50). Ordering an entire bottle of sake, even a small one, was probably ambitious; however, what Peter did manage to drink, and I sampled, was crisp and refreshing, and packed quite a punch. The wine was expectedly light and slightly fruity with a nice acidity, a good accompaniment to everything I wound up ordering.
Okay, so maybe the slightly cheesy photographs of pad thai and sushi rolls that greeted us at the entrance were actually a good marketing idea; I was suddenly ravenous. Luckily, the Sushi Thai menu is not only extensive, it went on for pages, and also features a remarkable variety of both Japanese and Thai dishes. The appetizers alone included everything from spring rolls, dumplings, and salads, to exotic sushi like the Tigers Eye: squid, stuffed with salmon and asparagus.
To truly take advantage of the variety, Peter and I started our meal with three appetizers: the Golden Triangles ($5.50), the Tempura ($5.75) and the Thai Style Spring Rolls (5.50). The Golden Triangles were similar to Indian samosas – tiny, flaky puff pastry envelopes of potatoes and onions seasoned with curry powder. Can you say “addictive”? These are a must-have. If crispy, golden brown puff pastry alone isn’t enough to pull you in, the savory goodness of curried potatoes and onions, tender and full of flavor, are sure to seal the deal. The Thai spring rolls were a joy to eat as well, each roll delicately stuffed with a cabbage and veggie filling, served with a sweet and sour dipping sauce. The broccoli, onion, sweet potato and zucchini Tempura was satisfying, but very much your standard tempura.
Dinner provided an even more daunting challenge. Of course, the menu featured Japanese dishes of all types, but an entire page of Sushi rolls? Another page dedicated solely to Sashimi, Nigiri Sushi and Temaki? I was in heaven. Sushi is one of those inexplicable things that I crave, like a hot fudge sundae with coffee ice cream or French fries or mountains of Reeses peanut butter cups, so I deliberated carefully. Would ordering one of each roll be over the top? Yes, I decided it would be. My final choices ended up being an Alaskan roll ($11.95) and an Avocado roll ($4.95).
Peter was in the mood for Thai, and with the help of our server he chose the Yellow Curry with tofu ($13.25). There were more varieties of curries than I’ve seen anywhere in the area. Included were the more popular Red and Green curries, the typically milder Panaeng curry and Massaman curry which has peanuts in it. Thai curry enthusiasts know these can sometimes be risky to order. A bad curry can be too thick and heavy, or overly sweet. But Sushi Thai can be proud. After sampling Peter’s aromatic curry I found it to be full of exotic flavors without being overly spicy or rich. There was an abundance of potatoes, onions, pineapple, peppers and nicely cooked tofu, all in a thin coconut milk, curry powder and lemongrass broth worthy of slurping right from the bowl. And, a nice touch was that the curry was served in its own little clay pot above a tiny lit candle to keep it warm. Wonderfully fragrant steamed jasmine rice was served alongside.
My sushi rolls were equally impressive. Both were impeccable plated with fresh flowers. If it is true that presentation is as important as taste, then Sushi Thai scored high marks here. King crab, avocado, cucumber, sesame seeds and masago (the roe from smelt fish) were all featured in my beautiful Alaskan roll. There was no skimping on the sweet, tender crab, and all the ingredients were as appealing to look at as they were to eat. The Avocado roll was perfectly sublime in its simplicity.
Up to this point, the meal was pleasantly satisfying without weighing us down. Peter and I both appreciated the modest portion sizes of all the dishes we sampled. It seems, happily, that Sushi Thai has not succumbed to the super-sized dishes popular in chain and fast food restaurants.
Lucky for us, this meant we were more than able to try a little dessert. In keeping with the Asian theme, we decided on the Green Tea ice cream ($3.25), although we could have easily opted for the Chilled Lychee or the Thai Custard. The ice cream tasted like springtime – it was delicate and floral without being overly sweet. It turned out to be a delightful and refreshing palette cleanser.
It wasn’t until we left that it hit me that we had such a lovely dining experience two doors down from the local Rite Aid. So let me say it one more time: a good meal, with exceptional service at a reasonable price awaits you at your local strip mall or plaza. Now go already!
The total cost for two glasses of wine, one 300 ml bottle of sake, three appetizers, two entrees and one dessert (excluding tax and tip) was $70.85.
Sushi Thai at The Park is located at 1707 US 9, #100, Clifton Park, (Corner of Rt.9 and 146 in the Key Bank/Rite Aid Plaza). Dinner hours are 3pm-10pm on Monday-Thursday and Sunday and 3pm-10:30pm on Friday and Saturday. For more information call 348.0100 or visit www.sushithaiatthepark.net.
Christina DeMers is an online marketing manager, food blogger and amateur cook who lives in East Greenbush, but eats just about anywhere.