Beverly and I stopped in for lunch at Jasmine’s with her sister and brother-in-law, Janice and Bill Feher, who were visiting from Connecticut.
(Janice spent some of her high school time in Thailand and later returned for a visit with her mother, so she has more familiarity than the rest of us with the culture and helped guide us through the extensive menu.)
When I think of Thailand, I think of Drunken Noodles and I’m immediately transported to the former Siam where they serve the dish as Kee Mao, an entree so spicy hot that you have to be drunk to consume it, or so the legend goes.
As much as I enjoy spicy food, I’ve never found it to be that hot. They certainly do try, though, and I resist the tendency to eat Kee Mao instead of other Thai dishes.
Jasmine Thai Restaurant
WHERE: 2717 Broadway, Rotterdam. 346-9990, www.jasminethais.webs.com
WHEN: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Friday; 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday; closed Sundays and 3-4 p.m. daily; all major credit cards accepted; handicapped accessible
COST: $153.52 (for four people)
The cuisine of Southeastern Asia has so much to offer that it would be foolish to limit oneself to a meager portion of the menu. There is, for example, crispy barbecued duck and spare ribs to savor, Crab Rangoon and steamed pork and shrimp ravioli with dumpling sauce.
You can sample a smorgasbord of Thai dishes for very little money (The most expensive entrees we could find at Jasmine Thai were Kaeng-Phed-Ped-Yang at $22, a dish of duck and shrimp in pineapple curry, with tomato and basil served over grilled pumpkin).
You’ll find basil and/or cilantro in many Thai dishes, enlivening them with their fresh flavors). The others priced similarly were all fish dishes — Golden Fish, which is a crispy tilapia fillet; a Whole Red Snapper fried boneless with pepper, baby corn, peas, onion and plum sauce.
The restaurant is where McLane’s operated as a diner for years. The transformation is remarkable — from mom-and-pop diner with great veggie egg sandwiches on whole grain bread to much sparer decor and elegant menu.
You couldn’t get such dishes as Grilled New Zealand Mussels with Oyster Sauce at McLane’s, for example.
Jasmine offers an extensive list of appetizers, with prices ranging from $5 to $7 for such favorites as Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce and Fried or Steamed Chicken Meatballs with Plum and Cream Sauce.
Salads are similarly diverse — you can get crispy duck tossed with red onion, chili, tomato, cilantro, apple, cashew nuts and lemon juice for $8.
Beverly ordered the Jasmine Basil Duck ($19 for a half of a roasted crispy boneless duck with spicy basil sauce, peas, pepper, basil, broccoli, carrots and baby corn); and I had the Barbecued Pork Ribs with Thai Barbecue Sauce and Vegetables ($17).
We all nibbled on Steamed Pork and Shrimp Ravioli with Dumpling Sauce ($6); a crab cake of lovely golden fried crab with plum sauce — plump and succulent for $6 — and lovely, crisp spring rolls (also $6).
Mussels, shrimp and many vegetarian dishes also are offered.
There were no complaints from our table. Bill enjoyed his entree of Cashew and Mushrooms with Beef and assorted vegetables ($13), and Janice had the Drunken Noodles ($13).
Though we all forswore any desserts, three of us reneged. I relished one of my favorite desserts of fried bananas and ice cream with whipped cream and chocolate sauce, Beverly enjoyed some custard and sticky rice and Janice ate one of Jasmine’s most popular confections of sliced mangos and sticky rice.
Our server, Gaan, was efficient and friendly, wearing native attire and bowing in the Thai “wai” to Janice, who reciprocated. She and Janice also reminisced about the hot-sweet coffee sold by street vendors of Thailand. I sampled some but found it too sweet for my taste, not to mention hot enough to burn your tongue.
I’ve been puzzled about what to do with a problem in the restaurant writing trade. Everybody’s got an opinion.
If you want to find out about Thai food — and it’s not a mystery these days — I would strongly recommend that you visit Jasmine Thai Restaurant or another reputable Thai restaurant. But I would also point out that you’ll have to do some personal sleuthing and sampling if you want to know the truth about any of these places.
The problem is websites like “Yelp,” which let anyone at all give an opinion, however uninformed, on the food of a particular establishment. So you end up with opinions that range from “The food is great. The price is fine. The service is good. In general, I love this place . . .” to “This Thai restaurant looks clean and nice on the inside. [But] the food here is horrible. A few people have gotten sick here. The food taste old. Taste like it been in the freezer too long major freezer burn.”
Whom do you believe? The person who says he loves the place or the one who says, “Taste like it been in the freezer too long major freezer burn.”
Sound like opinion all wet?