The temperature was pushing 90 degrees by mid-afternoon and judging from the number of cars parked around the modest building, folks preferred dine-in or take-out from Celadon Thai to cooking at home. And for good reason: the restaurant’s food was among the best Thai food I have ever enjoyed.
The front door could be accessed by a couple of steps or by a short ramp. The entrance opened into the dining room with a light folding screen to protect the privacy of the diners.
Sam (short for her Thai name) showed us to a sparsely decorated table, filled our water glasses and left menus. We were impressed by the number and varieties of food. It is said that “less is more,” to which I add, “sometimes more can be overwhelming.”
Loveable guest is a fan of dumplings — steamed, not fried. For his appetizer, he chose a variety filled with chicken and cabbage ($5.95). Light, tender and flavorful, he resorted only occasionally to dipping them in the accompanying light teriyaki sauce.
I ordered a small bowl of vegetable Tom Kha ($5.95), coconut soup. I requested medium heat, and that was exactly how it was served. Little globules of orangey oil bobbled on the surface. Mushrooms, cabbage and other vegetables were cooked crisp-tender and seasoned with lemongrass, lime juice and chili in a salty coconut broth with a hint of cilantro. I tend to avoid salt, but I’d walk a million miles for this delicacy.
From a dozen House Specials covering a spectrum of seafood to duck to vegetarian, pork, beef and chicken, Happy Diner chose Garlic Fish ($16.95) — a fried fish fillet topped with garlic pepper sauce and served with a colorful array of crisp-tender vegetables.
I noticed that many entrees were identified more by the spice incorporated in the dish than by the main ingredient. Ginger, pepper, Thai basil and curry all received top billing in naming the preparation — as if the protein source was merely a second thought. (American diners, take note.)
From a list of four dishes featuring duck (with basil, curry, orange or garlic and pepper), I chose the latter. Crispy Duck with Garlic and Pepper ($23.95) delighted me for two reasons: the carrots, broccoli, and other vegetables retained their crispness and vibrant color. And the crispy duck was indeed crispy, though the skilled chef allowed the meat to maintain its moistness. All pieces of meat and vegetables were chopped into, ironically, chopstick-sized pieces. No knives were needed.
We both chose the brown rice. It arrived molded into a perfect heart shape, possibly representing the affection of the restaurant for its customers?
In our culinary lexicon, no meal is complete without something sweet. Thai donuts ($5.50) and Mango and Sticky Rice ($7.50) seemed like a good combination for sharing. The donuts were actually connected in triplets, small, cakey and slightly sweet from a drizzle of icing. Squiggles of superfluous chocolate sauce and colored sprinkles decorated the sides of the dish.
But it was the mango and rice that stood out. Whoever did the grocery shopping that day nailed it. Sprinkled with black and white sesame seeds, the bright orange mango was at its peak of ripeness. Sitting atop a thin rectangle of sticky rice, the silky texture of the mango and the graininess of the rice complemented each other. Moreover, the sweetness of the rice (created by marinating it in sugar and coconut milk) and slight tartness of the mango created a tongue-teasing conflict.
A word about service: server Mike (his nickname evolved in some magical linguistic manner from his Thai name, “Waikoon”) represented for me the epitome of what a good waitperson should be: attentive without being obsequious, knowledgeable and efficient.
Should I be forced to summarize this venue, I might steal some sage’s remark from ages ago: “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” This modest restaurant with 11 tables has some of the best food and service I have experienced in a very long time.
Unfamiliar with the name “Celadon,” I Googled it. Celedon is a grayish- green color, sometimes described as bluish-green. The color gives rise to the name of a variety of Thai pottery with a crackled glaze of the same hue. I’m guessing the word “celery” might also be related.
Celadon Thai Restaurant
WHERE: 461 Troy Schenectady Road, Latham, 518-389-6190 www.celadonthailatham.com
WHEN: Monday-Thursday 11:00am-9:30 pm, Friday 11:00 am-10:00 pm, Saturday noon-10:00 pm, Sunday noon-9:30 pm
HOW MUCH: $70.80 for 2 appetizers, 2 entrees, 2 desserts, 2 non-alcoholic beverages but without tax and tip
MORE INFO: parking lot, major credit cards accepted, noise level permits conversation, accessible, small patio, take-out, online ordering with delivery by Mealeo, most meals can be adapted to vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free