There was a time in Schenectady’s history when it seemed as if every other restaurant had an Italian theme. This status was not unusual in a small city with a large Italian population. And who doesn’t enjoy pizza or Grandma’s Sunday gravy?
But as Schenectady’s population became more diverse, so did its eateries. I can name at least a dozen Thai restaurants within a short drive of the Electric City, and among the newest is Sudy Thai on Altamont Avenue in the Rotterdam section.
Finding plenty of lot parking in the front and on the side of the building, we left the car near the door and entered the modest building. A reverse-L pattern of about 15 tables graced with maroon tablecloths and fresh daisies were set up on a tile floor. A smiling server greeted us. “Sit anywhere you like,” she said. My guest and I chose a table next to the wall where we could observe the action.
The large window opposite the front door led me to assume that takeout orders represent a large part of Sudy Thai’s business. The steady flow of customers supported my hypothesis.
Server Ja-ru introduced herself (“my friends call me Ja,” she smiled), handed us menus and took our drink order: Thai iced tea for my guest ($2.50) and hot jasmine/green tea for me ($1). Layered with cream, the Thai iced tea is pretty to look at, but too sweet for my palate. I’m avoiding plastic straws these days, but Ja had fashioned an origami rose out of the end of the protective paper and we were charmed.
Guest ordered samosas ($5.50) — four potato-filled, triangular pastries that arrived on a rectangular dish with “sour red sauce” (similar to chili or chutney) for dipping. “Samosas are an Indian dish,” loyal guest reminded me, but I learned later that they were brought to India by traders from Central Asia or the Middle East.
My tom yum goong ($5.50, also known as Thai hot and sour soup) consisted of a spicy coconut milk base infused with lime, galangal (Thai ginger) and lemongrass. Besides four succulent medium-sized shrimp, the soup contained fresh sliced mushrooms and was garnished with a heap of cilantro (which I am learning to like). This is a soup I could enjoy on a daily basis.
Guest’s panang ($14.95) consisted also of a coconut milk broth to which chicken, onion and red and green bell peppers had been added. Although she noted the panang was “soupier” than she was accustomed to, good friend assured me her comment was merely an observation and not a criticism.
Since the one time I prepared roast duck at home was a disaster, I often order the dish if it appears on a menu. Thai venues frequently serve duck, and five varieties were offered at Sudy Thai, all priced at $23.95 except for panaeng duck at $24.95, the most expensive dish on the menu.
I opted for the Capital Thai Duck because although it was a crispy half duck like the other four varieties, it was served with green curry sauce unlike the others. Additionally, bell pepper, basil leaves, green beans and bamboo were included.
The half duck was difficult to locate hiding beneath a mound of vegetables, sauce and a generous sprig of basil. Once located, I found the duck meat to be dark and dry, perhaps from smoking or salting.
Rather than being an intact half, the “duck” was actually two small legs with thighs attached. I used the al dente rice to capture a measure of rich and slightly spicy green curry sauce. I ate little of the meat, but when I microwaved the duck the following day, the once-dry meat became deliciously moist and tender.
All the dishes came out of the kitchen piping hot in a timely fashion.
Chef/owner Zaw Zaw offered us dessert on the house, and while I am reluctant to accept a gift from an owner (regardless of whether or not I am reviewing the venue), we accepted his plate of a half-sliced perfectly mellow mango accompanied by a mound of sticky rice.
White and black sesame seeds were liberally sprinkled on not-too-sweet but immensely satisfying dessert.
We expect to return soon to sample some of the other 100-plus Thai dishes and variations, and to experience Sudy Thai’s caring service.
Sudy is the name of the owner’s daughter.
WHERE: 1600 Altamont Ave., Rotterdam, 12303; 518-280-3201; www.sudythai.com
WHEN: Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, noon-9:30 p.m.
HOW MUCH: $53.40 without tax and tip
MORE INFO: Parking lot, major credit cards accepted, noise level permits conversation, accessible, dine-in, takeout, delivery via Grubhub, parties up to 50 people.