Fancy digs now for the King and I, a Thai restaurant once located on Harlem Road, around the corner from its current location. This new one is done with dark blue walls, interspersed with art and a comfortable lounge area. Gauzy curtains blow in the breeze as you walk in.
The menu remains extensive with a good selection of appetizers, soup, salads, entrees and noodle dishes. It's an easy menu for a beginner to read, too, because explanations are clear and concise.
The description of one of our appetizers, satay ($5.95), for instance, answered all possible questions. It told us we'd get a choice of grilled marinated pork or chicken in spiced coconut cream on wooden skewers, served with homemade peanut sauce and Thai cucumber salad. Right on the money. (We went for the pork.)
But the menu didn't tell us that the appetizer would be so tasty or the cucumber salad so refreshing. That was a very pleasant surprise.
Fresh Spring Rolls ($3.95) were filled with shrimp, lettuce, carrot, bean sprouts, cilantro and mint. They were pretty as a picture. Sad to say, the shrimp carried with it the "but" -- what's this? Do we detect the faintest hint of ammonia in those crustaceans? The accompanying plum sauce helped to make things more or less right.
Thai soups, of course, included the wonderful Classic Tom Yum ($2.50), with its sweet and sour flavor, mushrooms, tomato, chili, lemongrass and ginger-like glangael, stuffed to the gills and very satisfying. Note: We asked for it medium, which was plenty hot enough.
One fabulous dish, listed under house specialties, is Ped Prig Pow. It's $13.95 for a very attractive platter of cubed roast duck mixed with vegetables and fresh pineapple. This sauce, too, was sweet and sour and ordered medium. But it carried much less heat.
A quibble: I wouldn't call the duck crispy as it said on the menu -- it wasn't. But I would call if flavorsome. A very recommendable dish.
Our favorite of the night were the King and I Noodles ($9.95), fresh wild rice noodles stir-fried with egg, mixed vegetables, scallops, topped with ground peanuts. Those scallops were especially memorable -- oh so lightly cooked with piping fresh flavor. I remember those scallops, and I smile.
All this food is best when served with beer, in our opinion. Our Singha beer was served in frosty mugs, obviously just out of the freezer. It was a very nice touch.
And then -- big surprise -- our server came up and offered us some Thai Rice Pudding for dessert. "On the house," she told us. Were we recognized? Possibly, but that rice pudding was a soothing end to a multitaste dinner. It satisfied our sweet tooth after all the heat and spice.
The pudding was made from sticky rice with a good jolt of coconut.
THE KING AND I
Review: 3 stars (Out of 4)
WHERE: 2188 Kensington Ave., Amherst (839-2950). New quarters for this popular Thai restaurant are comfortable, even fancy. There's a big menu of interesting food. Credit Cards: MasterCard, Visa.
FAVORITE DISH: King and I House Noodles with Scallops
NEEDS WORK: Shrimp Spring Rolls
PRICE RANGE: Appetizers from $3.95. House special entrees from $12.95. Noodle dishes from $7.95.
NOISE LEVEL: Moderate
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, 2 to 9:30 p.m. Saturday.
HEALTHY CHOICES: Many, including mixed seafood cooked in a clay pot; vegetarian curry; Lab (ground chicken with lemongrass).
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes
PARKING: In the lot
KID APPEAL: Adventurous kids will like.