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Salathai: Friendly, flavorful
Thursday, 10 March 2011
Photos by Wes Naman
Salathai joins list of long-standing local Thai favorites with traditional ingredients, room for individualization
By Cristina Olds
“A healthy way of living is be good to your health” my fortune cookie said. Do Thai restaurants have fortune cookies? Salathai does, and I found my fortune to be immediately true: The flavorful dishes at this Nob Hill restaurant offer a tasty way to eat healthy food.

Long-time Albuquerque residents who loved Thai Ginger on San Mateo south of Zuni will enjoy Salathai, managed by the same owners.

The vibe is friendly in this casual setting that previously housed Ragin’ Shrimp. Inside, they’ve painted a mural of a tranquil boat floating before a dark Bangkok temple, hung a few wood cuts and transformed the space from Cajun seafood to Thai. It’s nothing fancy — plastic covers the tables, and the walls could use a coat of paint — but the space is comfortable and allows diners to focus on the food.

On a recent visit to Salathai, a lone waiter working lunch promptly attended to the sleepy trickle of customers. He was familiar enough with the dishes to name the variety of ingredients we had plucked out of our entrées and offered plate suggestions when prompted.

The lunch menu is an abbreviated version of the dinner menu, but ask to see the full menu — my dining companion and I choose fresh rolls ($4.25) off the dinner menu. Bigger than the spring rolls and not deep fried, the plump rolls were packed with lettuce, cucumber, bean sprouts, basil and a bit of shrimp and tofu. Peanut dipping sauce added a sweet and spicy twist to the delicious freshness of the rolls.

Next we dove into some thom kha gai coconut soup ($9.50). Served steaming hot in a metal bowl, the milky soup was savory. Rich with traditional Thai ingredients of lime, lemon grass, white and green onions, galangal root, mushrooms and plentiful cilantro, the soup stood on its own without adding rice. Strong wafts of hardy kaffir lime leaves and garlic chunks filled our olfactory senses, and the meaty shrimp was fresh and cooked perfectly.

We both ordered the lunch special ($6.99, add $1 for shrimp substitution) which included an unremarkable miso soup, two typically greasy vegetarian spring rolls, a main dish and dessert of fruit or tapioca. The cashew chicken ($8.50 on the dinner menu under “specialties”) was light on the cashews, but green and orange and crunchy with snow peas, carrots, green onions and water chestnuts. I requested mild heat from the Thai chilis, and the spice level was perfect for a heat weenie like me.

ImageMy companion ordered drunken noodles with beef ($8.50 on the dinner menu). The dish of flat, broad noodles stir fried with chili sauce, egg, sweet basil, tomatoes, broccoli and onions was on par, but unspectacular, and the beef was on the tough side. The visible chili flakes augmented the medium heat and was strong enough to make my companion’s nose run. Online reviews reveal diners complaining of weak heat at Salathai, and unfortunately, on a later take-out dinner order, the medium heat dish wasn’t any spicier than the mild, representing an inconsistency in the rating scale.

We requested the Salathai homemade spicy dipping sauces be brought to our table. All three sauces feature the tiny Thai chilis in different stages: one with fresh green, seedy slices in vinegar, another a smoky, roasted red sauce, and finally a sprinkling option from powdered cooked chilis. These chilis are hot stuff, but also layered with subtle vinegar, fish sauce and sugary tastes — a delicious full-body rush to enhance your meal.

The dessert included with the lunch special was a warm dollop of light green tapioca floating in coconut milk. The waiter explained that it was sweetened by Stevia leaves, a natural, herbal option, that made eating dessert feel healthy.

Salathai joins a list of long-standing Thai favorites in Albuquerque offering familiar options with room for individualization. Be good to your health — give Salathai’s offerings a chance.

Gluten-free: Ask for “fresh rolls” (spring rolls in clear rice wrap). Rice noodle dishes and curries on rice are GF. Watch out for soy sauce with wheat in fried rice dishes.

Menu states most dishes can be served with tofu or veggies instead of meats.

Stick to simple rice dishes (not noodles or fried rice.)

3619 Copper NE, 505.265.9330
Hours: 11a-9:30p, Mon.-Thu.;
11a-10p, Fri.-Sat.; 5-9p, Sun.
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