Thai Spice: Spice Up Your Life
By Vanessa Wolf
Let’s see. There was Sporty Spice, Baby Spice, Scary Spice, Posh Spice and… Who are we forgetting?
This latest addition to the all-star lineup has taken over the space left behind by Tortillas Burrito Company on the Hana Highway in Paia.
The menu contains most – if not all – of the usual suspects.
We started with the Summer Rolls ($9).
We’ll tell you this: bring the other members of your girl band, because this is one mammoth portion.
The three gargantuan rolls (cut into six large segments) are a bit unruly.
Rolled in a sizable piece of uncooperative romaine lettuce and enveloped in a rice wrapper that got too wet, the rolls stick to everything: neighbor wraps, the plate, your fingers.
Then the innards fall out.
Basically (if yours is executed like ours anyway) it’s a salad.
Grab a knife and fork and treat it that way.
Regardless, the thinly sliced carrot, cucumber and cabbage slices add a nice crunch to contrast the rich chunk of fresh, meaty avocado and bundle of soft rice noodles. Fresh mint leaves provide the distinctive, energizing touch that makes the rolls pop.
The six beasts are accompanied by two sauces; a light peanut vinaigrette and a THICK – natural peanut butter-esque thick – peanut sauce/paste.
The latter was super sweet – akin to chunky peanut butter with a generous helping of sugar in it – and too much for the sticky-yet-falling- apart rolls to take on.
Go back a few sentences to the fact that it’s essentially a rolled up salad and.. That.
The Chicken Satay ($10) also arrives in generous portion.
The chicken thighs are moist and redolent with the flavors of lemongrass, galangal, and coriander. Served with the same thick peanut sauce from the summer rolls, the grilled poultry is able to stand up to the hearty texture of the sauce, although it’s still pretty darn sweet.
However, the sweetness coupled with the savory meat renders it a potentially addictive substance. Proceed at your own risk.
If you have been in the location during previous incarnations as other businesses, you know it’s hella small.
Including outdoor seating, there is sufficient accommodation for 13 diners total, and no more than a party of three at one table.
Although the ladies working the front are are as sweet and friendly as they are lovely, takeout is probably the way to go here.
The Green Curry with Beef ($12) isn’t all that green (or photogenic), but looks aren’t everything. Close your eyes and let your taste buds fall in love.
The rich, flavorful sauce is plentiful with eggplant, bamboo shoots, green and yellow bell peppers, carrots, green beans, Thai basil and squash. It’s a veggie orgy and everybody’s invited.
Meanwhile, the tender, succulent beef slices are well-offset by the chile and coconut-rich sauce. Par for the course, the portion is huge.
A side of rice will run you an extra $2.
That and another $1.25 will get you this catchy tune:
Yo, I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want
So tell me what you want, what you really really want
I wanna, I wanna, I wanna, I wanna, I wanna really really wanna Pad Thai ha.
Speaking of whom, the Pad Thai with Tofu ($10), is the Relleno/Reuben/Risotto of the Thai world.
Always a good way to get a reliable pulse on a place, Thai Spice’s version is beating strong.
Packed with fresh broccoli, carrots, string beans, cabbage and egg, we appreciated the small touches of fresh mung bean sprout and crushed peanuts on top.
Achieving the coveted balance between salty, sweet and sour in check, the dish hits every anticipated note.
The Khao Pad (Fried Rice) with Chicken ($11) sings with strong garlic and Thai basil notes.
The gargantuan portion arrives chockablock with green beans, carrots, cabbage, broccoli, zucchini and thick chunks of chicken.
The intricate flavors are complex yet muted, providing a welcome break from some of the other rich and spicy options.
The Tapioca Pudding ($4) is light and airy in texture, but intense with coconut flavor.
Slightly salty pea-sized tapioca pearls bring a faintly savory balance to the sweet coconut base. Delicate and lovely – but with some teeth – this is one sexy mouthful.
As most folks know, the little space that is currently Thai Spice has housed many a business.
For better or worse, we predict it will very well do so again… when they move to a bigger spot with some actual room.
They’re good enough to hang around no matter where they choose to roost, and we hope they do.
Thai Spice is located at 149 Hana Highway. They are open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day.