On Monday night, the madre was still in town and called me up for a last-minute dinner. She met me down at the bakery, and since we're both fans of Thai food, we slogged a few blocks in the driving rain to Spice on Eighth Avenue.
The dining room was stark and very loud, with bizarre spun-sugar light fixtures and a high pressed-tin ceiling. We were seated at a corner table, which was nice because it gave us more room to spread out our wet raingear. Our waiter came to take our order very promptly, so while I knew what I wanted (dumplings, obvi), my mom made a decision on the fly. It's worth noting that it seemed the waiter had a sense of humor-- when my mom ordered a bottle of seltzer, he served it as he would a bottle of wine, showing her the label and offering her a taste, before my mom put an end to the shenanigans.
I selected an order of dumplings and a papaya salad, and my mom ordered a papaya salad and an entree. Unfortunately, both my dishes came during the appetizer course, which messed up the pacing of the meal a bit (especially since I already eat about twice as fast as my mom does). But I tackled the dumplings first. The presentation of these was bizarre: they were served all squished together in a shallow bowl, with the dipping sauce at the bottom. When I peeled them apart, however, they were quite good, with the standard tasty mixed-vegetable filling and the thin translucent dumpling skins. However, I can't quite call these the platonic ideal of veggie dumplings due to the presentation and the fact that, as a result, I didn't have control over the dipping action.
The papaya salad was also pretty good. I'm beginning to think that making a decent papaya salad isn't all that hard, but nonetheless, this was a yummy version, with plenty of dressing to lubricate the mix and a pleasant spice that left a lingering tingle in my mouth. My only beef was that there could have been more peanuts and they could have been chopped a little finer. (For the record, Mom liked the papaya salad too.)
Upon the recommendation of the waiter, Mom had chosen the Spice seafood combo as her entree, which came with shrimp, calamari, snapper, onion, carrot, zucchini, and pepper with chili basil sauce. With a cone of hearty brown rice mixed in, Mom really liked this dish. She especially noted the fact that the calamari wasn't rubbery. Kudos.
I had brought Mom a cupcake for her after dinner (red velvet, natch), so we skipped the dessert course and headed back out into the watery jungle that was Eighth Avenue. About midway through our meal, somebody had turned the lights way down, so by the time we were done we were eating in almost complete darkness, which was thoroughly bizarre (perhaps trendy on a nice sunny day, but annoying on the dark and gloomy day that it was). But you don't necessarily go to Spice for the ambiance-- you go for the solid and very reasonably priced Thai food (my entire meal was only $8! Nice!). Now I know why people at the bakery order Spice takeout so often, and I may be inclined to join them in the future. It's yet another solid three Offset Spatula Thai joint.
199 Eighth Avenue, at 20th Street