A few weeks ago Howie from A Foodies Eye View sent me an email, telling me about a new Thai Restaurant that opened up on Sports Arena Boulevard, right next to the L & L Drive In. So a few weeks back, the Missus and I decided to drop in for lunch. In retrospect, this might have been a bad idea, since we had just returned from a nice meal at Yai Restaurant in Thai Town.
Though the exterior is rather plain, and the dining furniture pedestrian, much care has been taken with the restaurant decor.
We were seated, and a thought entered my head. I inquired if this restaurant was in any way affiliated with the other 3 "Spices Thai" restaurants in the San Diego area. I think this was a bad move; I got an immediate "No, we are not" response, along with a rather displeased frown. We did find out that the Royal Spices had only been opened for 2 weeks at the time of this visit.
We looked over the sizable menu, and quickly noticed that along with the run-of-the-mill, you pick the meat, you pick the sauce/preparation type dishes, there a few interesting items.
We placed our order and some soup arrived:
A thin broth with the faint flavors of lemongrass, kaffir lime leaf, and a few other items. No big deal really.
The Missus went with the "lunch special" of Red Curry with Battered Fish Fillet($9.95):
I did enjoy the 5 "mini-scoops" of rice, quite and interesting presentation. I won't go into the mediocre green salad, vegetable egg roll, or curry wonton. I'll just say, "why bother?" Now to the main course, there were two "half fillets" of battered white fish. Unfortunately, the fish had not been fried properly, it was dry, and the batter flaked off.
Having returned from Yai, where the medium heat was in your face, and pretty hot, we ordered the curry medium. It was probably the mildest medium heat I've ever tasted. The curry was disappointing, watery and runny, with an overly sweet taste. The julienned vegetables were cooked perfectly, though I wish that more then two little Thai Basil leaves were used for flavoring.
I ordered a dish from the "Chef's Special" portion of the menu; the Spices Thai Jerky(Beef - $12.95):
The presentation was again very "pretty". This dish came with slices of beef that had been lightly marinated, and though on the tough side, was fairly decent. It was nothing like previous versions of Thai Jerky that I've had; instead of the rich and pungent "jerky", this seemed almost like a "tweener", between Thai Jerky, and the Beef in Yum Nua. The beef could probably have used more assertive seasoning, and maybe a good amount of toasted rice powder to keep it interesting. The sauce provided, something called "Royal Sauce" was pretty good; a tart, tangy, and mildly sweet, chutney like preparation, it was the best item on the plate, and brought the beef up a level. The sticky rice was too moist. The dish also came with a Papaya Salad:
Though prepared well; the salad was in dire need of a "pungent" component. It was very, very mild, and too sweet and dry. More fish sauce, shredded dry shrimp, or some other fishy pungent flavor along with more "heat" would probably have made this a decent papaya salad.
The service on this visit, though a bit on the fawning side, was very friendly(after the initial Spices Thai faux pa). And I thought that perhaps the restaurant was still trying to find itself, and a few items had potential. So I recently dropped by for another lunch. And was seated immediately. Different crew this time, though still very nice. I decided to avoid any of the lunch specials and was in the mood for some noodles, so I decided on the Pad Woon Sen(glass noodles) with Roasted Duck($11.95). Ordering my Pad Woon Sen was quite interesting. I asked for the "Pad Woon Sen with Roasted Duck", now in the menu it's called "Jelly Noodles". So the Gal goes, "okay, jelly noodles with roasted duck". So I nod in agreement and go, "yes, the Pad Woon Sen, with roasted duck." So she responds with, "Got it, jelly noodles with roasted duck." I guess I'm not allowed to call it Pad Woon Sen........
Pad Woon, ummm, Jelly Noodles arrived in a few minutes, piping hot. One the positive side, there was a pretty large amount of duck, probably the most I've had in a noodle dish, very tender and without bones. On the negative side, the duck was very mildly flavored. The dish was also on the oily side. Now I'm used to dishes where oil is used in generous amounts, but in most cases that dish doesn't taste oily; this did. I don't know if it was the large amount of duck, but there was alot of oil in the bottom of the plate.
The dish also featured a generous amount of vegetables, egg, and straw mushrooms. I wish this dish, along with the others eaten were more aggressively flavored. I was told that garlic was used in this dish, but couldn't taste it, nor much of any other "seasoning", including soy/fish sauce, or black pepper which is sometimes used to flavor this dish. But then again, that could be the difference between Pad Woon Sen and Jelly Noodles?
On this visit, service was again very nice, except I wasn't allowed to order Pad Woon Sen. Royal Spices Thai shows some promise, but I think they need to live up to the "spices" portion of their name. There are some interesting dishes on the menu like Royal Andaman Salad (Yum seafood). Prices range from $7.95 - $11.95 for lunch "specials", and from $8.95 to $14.95 for dinner entrees.
Royal Spices Thai Cuisine
3145 Sports Arena Boulevard
San Diego, CA 92110
Sunday - Thursday 11am-10pm
Friday - Saturday 11am-11pm