For better or for worse, Half Moon Bay’s Spice Me Thai restaurant has been discovered by the world at large. A recent Saturday night visit there proved it, as the line for tables as well as takeout snaked all the way through the restaurant and onto the street.
As I’ve learned from working in San Francisco, when foodies get attached to an eatery, no challenge will discourage them. (I routinely see a long line of tech workers patiently waiting for 30 minutes to get their favorite takeout Vietnamese banh mi.) And it appears that the same thing has happened to our humble Thai place on Purissima next to Ink Spell Books. As my foursome waited for our table, I even spotted a former World Series-winning San Francisco Giants player, also waiting patiently for takeout in his golf gear.
The small staff did its best to attend to everyone, but found itself woefully under-prepared for the Saturday night onslaught. Our meal lasted two hours, and was frenetically served: an appetizer followed by nothing at all for 40 minutes, then soup, then another long wait, then everything else at once. Additionally, the noise level was uncomfortably high, thanks to the crowded conditions and buzzy Saturday night crowd.
But here’s the good news: When it did arrive, the food was almost uniformly fabulous, and relatively inexpensive. (Two of us ate well for $52.)
The vegetarian fried spring rolls were very good — flaky and stuffed with noodles, carrots and cabbage. And when dipped in their sweet and sour sauce? Perfection. And when the soup came (Tom Kha Pak, coconut base with mushrooms, tofu, lemongrass and kaffir leaves) we swooned collectively at the heady yet delicate aroma. There was reverent silence when we savored the first bite. Suddenly all the hassle was worth it and then some.
Our spice-loving friends ordered the Gang Kiew Wan — green curry with chicken, big chunks of eggplant, basil and red peppers in coconut milk. Delicious, they said, but really spicy — almost to the point of being inedible. Buyer beware! More to their taste was a less spicy basil tofu, which was prepared with chili, tomato, mushrooms and onions and was delicious, they said.
My friend’s Pra Ram Pak — tofu and assorted vegetables in savory peanut sauce — was a perfect topping for sticky rice and highly addictive.
The one disappointment was my Pad Thai Pak – vegetable pad thai. I am such a fan that I have to order it in every Thai restaurant I visit, and this one was nothing special. The flavors were a bit bland and could probably have benefited from additional garlic, shallots or tamarind. After the other excellent dishes we tried, this one was a letdown.
We would normally order dessert, too, to give readers the full spectrum of what restaurants have to offer, but we were all too tired from the long meal to think about staying longer. But when I go back, I have my eye on the Mango Madness, which is fresh mango with mango ice cream. The happiest of overloads!
Spice Me offers excellent and authentic Thai cuisine and the coast is lucky to have such a buzz-worthy eatery. But if you want to just enjoy the food and skip the crowds, the noise and the long waits, go on a weeknight and call ahead for a reservation! They, unfortunately, do not take reservations online.
Hopefully, as their reputation continues to grow, so will their staff.
Half Moon Bay Review restaurant reviews are written by anonymous Coastsiders.