May 3, 2010
783B Hope Street
Providence, RI 02906
It's hard to walk down Hope Street on the East Side of Providence without getting hungry. Just a few blocks from Not Just Snacks and Ivy Tavern is Apsara Palace, a pan Asian restaurant which serves up Vietnamese, Cambodian, Thai, and Chinese cuisine. As you can imagine, covering cuisine from such a vast area of the world requires a hearty, expansive menu.
After having lived in Thailand and eaten my way through Southeast Asia during a year long fellowship, one of the things I most miss back at home is the food of the region. I crave the juicy mangoes, spicy curries, and peanuty dishes I'd eaten at street side markets. I'm often hard pressed to find a Thai restaurant able to capture those uniquely tangy flavors.
So when I arrived at Apsara Palace on a bustling Saturday night, I didn't have the heart to leaf through the pages and pages of rice and noodle dishes. Bracing myself in advance to be disappointed, I ordered the hard-to-ruin and unimaginative staple of American Southeast Asian cuisine-Pad Thai. In Thailand Pad Thai is often sold by vendors on the street in a giant metal wok that quickly cooks multiple helpings in one batch. Vendors have an array of condiments so you can make the noodles your own-hot sauce, fish sauce, peanuts, and lime help with the customization. While the dish is enjoyed as a snack or a meal by Thais, it is not by any means viewed as the nation's signature dish.
But Apsara Palace's delicious sweet, sour, and salty Pad Thai may just have renewed my faith in American Thai restaurants. Squeezing the lime over my noodles generously covered in chopped peanuts brought back memories of crowded streets abuzz with activity-motorbikes whizzing by, late night street vendors hawking fruit, and friends gossiping over steaming bowls of soup after a long day. I hope on my next visit to Apsara Palace I'll be brave enough to really explore their vast menu.