Thai Spice Garden

Could anyone brazenly take over the spot made famous by IndoChine—and make it even better? Maybe if they were as unassuming and honest as the folks behind Thai Spice Garden. The mild mannered proprietor and his casually clad waitstaff ambled around the restaurant chatting to customers when we arrived one hot noontime. The cool bungalow setting of the restaurant has remained unchanged, with ample seating both inside and outside. Choosing our lunch with care, we settled back for a somewhat long wait—at least 15 minutes—before our dishes arrived. We were assured that food was cooked on the spot after ordering, and the freshness of the dishes proved this to be so. The fried spicy fish cake with cucumber salad was as fresh as you can imagine it to be. Peppered with just the right amount of spices and accompanied by a sweet and spicy salad, it was simple and satisfying. Following soon after was the crumbed soft shell crab with mango salad, and the highly recommended century egg with crispy basil and minced pork. The crab batter was perfectly light, crispy and not in the least oily; and the mango salad proved refreshingly crunchy and tangy. Meanwhile, the wonderful earthiness of century egg was set off perfectly with fried crispy basil—a mouthful of textures and flavors that had us mopping up every last morsel. Looking around, we felt perfectly at home in the rustic ambiance of the wooden dining room—a moment of satisfaction that was pleasantly punctuated by the serving of fragrant red ruby with coconut milk. The coconut milk in its undiluted form was surprisingly not overwhelming. What we loved was the coconut flesh included with the crunchy rubies (water chestnut). The sticky rice with sweet mango, which is apparently seasonal, did not turn out to be as sweet as the name suggested, so we left the mango and instead devoured the delicious sticky rice. You can bet we’ll be back with bigger appetites and more dining companions.