Apsara Palace

By JOHNETTE RODRIGUEZ  |  May 18, 2007
ou ample opportunity to peruse the multi-page menu and the long list of blackboard specials. From that list, we chose a “Thai coconut soup” with chicken, and the small portion ($5.99) was almost more than three of us could finish. This soup had that wonderful combination of lemongrass, chicken broth and coconut, with bits of Thai basil and a floating disc of galanga, the ginger-like root used in Asian cooking. Tarra and I, not recognizing it as just a flavoring, bit into it, and it was quite fiery. Our waitress told us that it isn’t usually consumed, but that when it is, it’s good for digestion. Whew!
 
Staying close to the Thai theme (though there are Vietnamese, Cambodian, and Chinese dishes on Apsara Palace’s menu), we opted for that unbeatable pad Thai, with shrimp ($6.25); the Thai pineapple fried rice, with chicken ($5.95); tofu with veggies and lemongrass ($6); and pork with eggplant in satay sauce ($7.25). The pad Thai is offered in both Cambodian and Thai styles, the latter with hotter spices. There are also Cantonese noodles Chinese- or Cambodian-style; udon noodles Shanghai- or Singapore-style; and many other noodles, from egg to angel hair, stir-fried to crispy.
 
The lovely surprise in the fried rice was the fresh pineapple, in slim wedges, nestled among the red and green peppers, onions, carrots, and peapods, with a mild curry flavor that made it hard to stop eating. As with many such items on the menu, including the noodle dishes, this can be ordered with beef, pork, chicken, vegetables, tofu and vegetables, shrimp, seafood, or Chinese sausage (or combos of these items).
 
Among the chicken, beef, pork, and seafood offerings, there are Chinese, Cambodian, Thai, and Mongolian preparations, all carefully detailed. On my first visit, the tofu dish of choice was with broccoli in a Chinese ginger and garlic sauce ($6.50), and it was delish. Bill couldn’t say enough about his pork/eggplant entrée in its sweet-and-hot sauce.
 
Tarra, meanwhile, enjoyed the shrimp in the pad Thai, and all three of us loved the tofu with lemongrass dish. Also slightly curried, with bamboo shoots and baby corn, this dish kept attracting us for one more bite. You can tell how good the food is at any restaurant by how little interest you have in dessert (which isn’t offered here, except for fortune cookies).
 
For my first Palace visit, a friend and I split that tofu/broccoli dish, and the pan-fried tofu absorbed the wonderful sauce. We enjoyed a Vietnamese bee boong, the chicken option ($5.75). This is a cold dish, similar to a salad, with soft rice noodles mixed with scallions, bean sprouts, basil and cucumber; the whole is doused with a rice vinegar dressing. We also shared two classic veggie nime chow ($2.75), those fresh rolls in rice paper tightly stuffed with rice vermicelli, basil, bean sprouts, and lettuce.
 
A teenaged friend with us picked the crispy chicken wings ($5.75), a huge plate of fat wings with a crunchy tempura-like coating, and the pork option on the “Apsara fried rice” ($5.75). She was very happy with her choices.
 
So, although there are chef’s specialties we didn’t even get to — stir-fried peapod leaves, or mussels in black bean sauce — we were all so enthusiastic about the dishes we had, we can hardly wait to go back. 
 
Apsara palace | 783B Hope St, Providence | Sun-Thurs, 10 am-9:30 pm; Fri-Sat, 10 am-10 pm | Major credit cards | BYOB | Sidewalk-level access | 401.831.4722 | 401.831.5225

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Johnette Rodriguez: johnette.rodriguez@cox.net
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