Thai restaurant travels well to new location in Melrose
Hours: Monday to Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sunday, 4-10 p.m.
Spice Thai Kitchen’s second location has hit the ground running: Everything I sampled from the menu at its Franklin Street storefront in Melrose was quite good, and much of it was excellent.
The restaurant opened this spring across from the Melrose Highlands commuter-rail station, joining a sister location in Ipswich. The focus here is on take-out and delivery, the lone table not particularly inviting for anything beyond a brief wait for a to-go order.
The appetizer menu is populated by familiar offerings including satay, crab Rangoon, and shumai. The edamame shumai ($5.50) is an interesting version, with a soybean filling that might almost convince you that a fried dumpling is a healthy choice.
The unusual salmon roll ($8) consists of a crispy roll filled with equal parts salmon and spinach. It was tasty, with or without the mysterious Creamsicle-colored sauce accompanying it.
The seaweed salad ($5), tossed with sesame vinegar dressing, was light, crunchy, and a refreshing change of pace that saves room for the delicacies to follow.
The scallion pancakes ($5.50) may not win points for originality, but they were yummy and not too heavy. Combining Indian and Thai cuisine in an unexpected way, the Siam roti ($6.25), warm flatbread served with a peanutty sauce, was pleasant, although there was far too much sauce and/or far too little bread.
Many of Spice Thai Kitchen’s entrees are similarly unpretentious variations on fusion food, borrowing successfully from Asian neighbors.
The mango fried rice ($11 dinner, $8 lunch) was far ahead of the diced-carrots-and-peas version served in many Chinese restaurants. The dish was practically bursting with chicken, shrimp, chunks of ripe mango, and slivered peppers. It was delicious enough that I had trouble not picking at the huge portion long after I was sated.
The Chiangmai noodle ($12.50 dinner, $8 lunch) starts off sweet but comes on spicy at the end of each mouthful. With large pieces of chicken, vegetables, and shrimp in a pleasant peanut-coconut milk sauce with just a hint of lemongrass, this dish had a wonderfully complex mix of flavors.
I don’t usually gravitate toward the healthiest option when eating out, so the rama garden ($13) was a pleasant surprise. The combination of steamed broccoli, carrots, and onions topped with two perfectly grilled and sliced chicken breasts won me over even without the accompanying peanut sauce. I would certainly order this dish again.
Identified on the menu as Spice Thai Kitchen’s most popular dish, the mango curry ($13) had only a mildly spicy kick. It was pleasantly sweet, with generous chunks of mango.
The deluxe crispy chicken ($13) was probably the least successful dish I sampled, more like a Chinese sweet-and-sour entrée aimed at American taste buds. It was good, if slightly cloying, but simply outclassed by other options on the menu. Also, the fried strips of chicken soak up the dish’s sauce, making them a bit soggy by the time the container gets opened.
Importantly for a take-out restaurant, though, most of the food travels well. All of the other dishes kept their flavor and texture even after a ride of a half-hour or more.