On Saturday The Wife and I met up with Lefty and Josh at the freshly opened Spice Thai Cafe in Lakeville. Sitting in the exact same location as one of the Metro’s greatest Thai restaurants, Ronin Sushi Cafe which closed due to health issues of the owner and head chef, and sister location to the popular Spice Thai sitting on the Savage/Burnsville border, this new restaurant had some big shoes to fill in order to match the quality food pushed out by Ronin.
We arrived at 6 PM on opening night expecting to find a dead restaurant, something the ownership later mentioned they expected as well, however, what we found was a very busy restaurant which was about to get even more crowded as the night went on. Lefty had a table for us in the back of the restaurant, where Ronin’s oddly placed sushi bar used to be located. We were quickly served by our friendly, fairly knowledgeable, eager, and certainly overworked waiter who took our drink orders and gave us some time to look over the menu.
The menu is lengthy and includes many of the classic favorites (Pad Thai and Curries) coupled with some options which don’t appear on every Thai restaurant menu you’re likely to come across in your travels. In addition, there was a fairly simple kids menu for The Rooster which offered both kid-friendly Thai options (e.g. tamarind chicken with rice and a spring roll) as well as a more Americanized option I now forget.
The Wife set her sights on some cheese puffs and Spice Thai Cafe’s E2: Pad Cashews with chicken. Josh and Lefty both ordered G3: Gaeng Dang (Red) with shrimp (as hot as you can make it) and chicken (6 on the 5 star scale) respectively. I ordered a plate of Spice Hot Wings (as hot as you can possible make it) and the E7: Pad Roasted Chili Sauce with calamari and a request to be 1 million times hotter than the wings ended up being.
After placing our orders we had a fairly short wait considering how busy the restaurant was and certainly way shorter than the old Ronin would have been able to push out food. However, while the wait was short for the food, our waiter was VERY overworked no doubt because the restaurant was incredibly busy and they were simply not prepared for that sort of response on their first day of business.
The wings and cheese puffs were out first. While I found them to light and airy and missing enough cream cheese, The Wife LOVED her cheese puffs and said they were some of the best she’s had. She had the entire plate scarfed down before I could even get a second taste test out of them. The Wings, described as, “Crispy fried wings cooked in Tamarind glazed sauce with cilantro & green onion,” came without issue and were covered in an additional layer of chili sauce in an attempt to make them hot enough to surpass our desire to be much hotter than the “challenging” spice level on the menu. While the wings themselves were not hot at all, they were VERY flavorful and VERY meaty. The chili sauce was sweet and spicy and the green onion and cilantro gave it that fresh and clean kick that mellowed out the tamarind. Josh, Lefty and I all agreed that they were definitely not hot but that we’d order them again. Highly recommended if you’re into Asian flavored wings.
Eventually our orders were up and were delivered to our table in HUGE portions with very adequate amounts of rice and meat. Josh and Lefty’s red curries were immediately noticeable as soon as they hit the table as the smell of coconut and basil filled the air. While you could clearly see some chili oil floating on the surface, there was no hint of heat at all, certainly not enough for us to be “challenged”. Both Josh and Lefty were surprised by the consistency of the curry as it was less soupy and far more hearty than the usual curry you receive elsewhere. While Josh really loved the fact that there was almost no vegetables in the curry (bamboo), Lefty noted he would have liked to see more. Both Josh and Lefty gave their dishes high marks and my tastes of both left me wanting some myself. The red curry definitely seemed like a winner and based on my little tastes I would certainly order it in the future.
The Wife’s Pad Cashew was a HUGE portion and was filled with loads of chicken and vegetables. The Wife has never been a really big Thai food fan. She usually begrudgingly eats it when I drag her to a new restaurant I want to try but has never found anything that really got her interested. This dish, however, was one that she really enjoyed and after the two small tastes I got of it, I can see why. Instead of being a vegetable stir fry dish with some cashews thrown on top, this was a sweet and meaty mess which had an extremely flavorful cashew sauce which allowed the flavors to really carry throughout the entire meal. When I later asked her if she’d be willing to return to Spice Cafe she had an emphatic “yes!”, something which makes me smile because we’ve finally found a local Thai restaurant which meets both of our needs. Yay!
My Pad Roasted Chili Sauce with calamari described as, “Roasted chili sauce, onions, bell peppers and carrots,” was similarly huge and also came with plenty of calarmi, however, at first I didn’t recognize them as the ENORMOUS pieces of calarmi almost looked like onion slices! While the calamari themselves were a little rubbery for me, they were quite flavorful on their own and coupled with the chili sauce and the rest of the vegetables, this was a very enjoyable dish. While their take on “challenging” spice level needs some serious work, they did come out of the kitchen with four extra containers of freshly chopped Thai chilies for us to add to heat up our meals. Our server asked if it would be ok for him to charge us extra for the chilies because he was afraid we would take all of the fresh chilies available in the restaurant.
Now, while our meals were excellent, I have to make some additional comments about the spice level and the apparent lack of fresh chilies in the restaurant. While they may not have expected the insane rush they had on their opening night, for a Thai restaurant not to have a ready stock of fresh chilies is a little bit ridiculous IMO. Their name indicates that they may be spicy (yes, they could be talking in general about spices) but they push out a product which could be increased easily ten-fold in heat. While many people enjoy Thai food mild, there is a growing population of people, even in Minnesota, who really want to get their doors blown off when they eat something that’s labeled as “challenging”. If you’re going to put that on your menu, it better be exactly what it says or you’re just setting yourselves up for failure in the chilihead department.
Aside from the lack of spice at Spice Cafe in Lakeville, the food we had on Saturday night nearly rivaled that of Ronin on an average day. While I think they could certainly continue to up their game, they are off to a WONDERFUL start and I am VERY excited to have a stellar Thai restaurant back in the neighborhood. Overall I was quite impressed with the service (considering the situation on the first night), the food, and especially the flavors. I highly recommend you check out Spice Thai Cafe in Lakeville at your earliest convenience, you won’t be disappointed.
Have you ever eaten at Spice Thai in Savage or Spice Cafe in Lakeville? If so what did you think? What are you favorite dishes? Are you surprised at their lower than average spice ratings? Whatever you have to say about Spice Thai Cafe on the border of Apple Valley and Lakeville go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Spice Thai Cafe
7704 160th St W
Lakeville, MN 55044
Sunday – Thursday: 11 AM – 9 PM
Friday – Saturday: 11 AM – 10 PM
See all the photos from Spice Thai Cafe in Lakeville on Flickr here.