The cuisine at Thai Kitchen by Cottonwood Mall in Northwest Albuquerque isn’t exactly daring, but it is filling at a fair price. This well-designed restaurant serving Southeast Asian cuisine is less about excitement or trendiness and more about wholesome, well-portioned meals.
On a recent weeknight, I started with the chicken satay ($6.95), a staple on most Thai appetizer menus: four chicken tenders marinated and skewered, served with a tiny cucumber salad and a peanut dipping sauce. A tiny bundle of string-peeled carrots served as garnish.
Even though they weren’t as filling as some appetizers (or as filling as the price would suggest), they had a great flavor. They were small, but they packed a punch.
Equally as good but more filling and at a better price, the Thai egg rolls ($4.50 for two) were nice. They had small bits of pork and tender vegetables, but the best part was the dipping sauce, a kind of sweet-and-sour with richer taste, deep color, and bits of fresh ginger sprinkled on top.
The egg rolls weren’t huge, but they were delicious, a perfect serving for an appetizer.
The main course had a lot going for it, too. Aside from various noodle bowls and half a dozen varieties of curries, Thai Kitchen has the usual suspects on its menu. I decided to try the Thai sweet-and-sour (around $11, depending on the protein), common on Asian menus in the United States, but slightly different with every interpretation. This one was good – loaded with giant chunks of tender chicken breast lightly sautéed with fresh vegetables.
The sauce was darker in color and lighter in taste than traditional sweet-and-sours, with a pleasant kick from chili powder (I opted for medium) and it wasn’t as sweet or rich as its Chinese counterpart. Still, it was a very good dish, the portion was huge (easily shareable), and the vegetables were delicious. Artistically cut carrots stood out the most, but little chunks of fresh pineapple and large chunks of onions also made their mark. A mound of fresh-cut parsley garnished the dish, and halved mushrooms and chopped green onions provided layers of flavor.
Overall, it was a good dish and was certainly filling.
For the price, the portions are more than fair. Thai Kitchen’s focus is on fresh ingredients cooked plainly instead of thick sauces and concentrated flavors, so a meal doesn’t seem like a guilty indulgence.
The interior is also notable: though it’s a small restaurant wedged into a standard strip mall, the expertly appointed interior has a cosmopolitan vibe. Living potted plants give it a more welcoming feel, and a grand bar features bottles of every kind mixed with art objects and orchids.
On a weekday evening, the service was sufficient, if not extraordinary. The wait staff isn’t overly friendly or particularly efficient, but food arrives quickly and without much fanfare.
The menu isn’t notably kid-friendly, but the flavors are – most eaters regardless of age will find a favorite dish. Because of its location, parking is never a problem and finding the place is easy. The interior can also accommodate larger parties, and a fenced patio in front would make a great setting for alfresco dining during warmer months.
The food stands up well to time, so it makes a good option for takeout or leftovers, as well. Unfortunately, delivery isn’t offered.
Thai Kitchen’s menu doesn’t push any boundaries, but the food is good and fairly priced. Rather than a special-occasion spot, this restaurant is ideal for casual lunches or simple dinners, and the flavors are reliably consistent for regulars. If you expect less daring and more filling, you won’t leave unsatisfied.