This week, we're visiting Taste of Thai Express on Route 13 in Ithaca's west end. After a long delay, the West State Street eatery moved to these new digs a few years back, and they're still offering fresh, affordable Thai food for dine-in or delivery.
Taste of Thai ExpressThis location has a long history with other eateries, most notably one of Ithaca's three Dunkin Donuts, lasting for quite a few years until it was turned into a Vermont Green Mountain Coffee Roasters outlet. Since then, it was briefly a branch of the wildly successful Oswego Subs business from Oswego, and CTB Express, before the Taste of Thai Express folks began a major renovation. After a pause, they finally finished the process.
At lunchtime, there are $6-8 special entrees, served in reasonable portions, and even better, there are two-course and three-course lunches, offering a choice of appetizer, choice of entree, and if you go the three-course route, a dessert, as well. A lunch combo also features a complimentary bowl of hot, tangy soup, a nice way to whet your appetite and take the mid-winter chill off.
Among the appetizers, we love the crispy vegetarian spring rolls that come with a delicious, sweet and spicy chili sauce, and the chicken satay, marinated grilled chicken along with a peanut dipping sauce. The spring rolls are fried, but what we've come to think of as "spring rolls" elsewhere are called "fresh rolls" here; they're served cold and wrapped in soft rice paper.
Taste of Thai Express green bean seafoodMost entrees can be prepared with chicken, pork, beef, tofu, or vegetables, or for a little bit more, shrimp or a seafood medley that features shrimp, calamari, scallops, and mussels. Entree options include a variety of fried rice or noodle dishes, such as pineapple fried rice or Pad Thai, the sweet stir-fried rice noodle dish. There are green curry, red curry, and a peanutty massaman curry, and among the wok stir-fry dishes I keep coming back to is the Thai green bean, crisp fresh beans in a garlicky roasted chili sauce. I get it with the fantastic seafood medley, but it's also great with beef or tofu.
At dinnertime, the menu's a little broader, the prices are a little higher, and the portions are lots bigger. We love getting a quart of soup and a few entrees to split with friends, an affordable way to do Thai food. Ordering an entree per person often means lots of leftovers; one or two fewer is probably safe if there are more than two or three of you.
Taste of Thai Express fried bananaFor dessert, try the fried banana, one of those ultimate desserts that everyone should enjoy once in a while, or the traditional Thai sweet sticky rice. And splurge with Thai iced tea or Thai iced coffee, thick and creamy and sweet.
Plan on spending 8-15 dollars on lunch, 10-20 at dinnertime. Stop by Taste of Thai Express at 209 South Meadow Street (on the one-way northbound stretch of Route 13 near Agway), call them at 607-272-THAI, or order for take-out or delivery, and tell them you heard about them here.