The progressive and flavorful food at Spice & Rice Thai Kitchen is a force to be reckoned with, and as the oldest Thai food restaurant in La Jolla, it’s evident how this place has lasted nearly 20 years in a community whose dining establishments are constantly evolving. The restaurant was founded in 1996 by a band of three chefs with a passion for Thai food – from pineapple fried rice to Panang Curry Duck and homemade coconut ice cream, there is no shortage of mouthwatering options on the the menu.
A Chef’s Dream
The Kitchen was the brainchild of three chefs, all of whom hail from New York City and moved to San Diego to attend culinary school. One of them decided to open his own restaurant, and in 1996 Spice & Rice Thai Kitchen opened its doors in La Jolla. It was the very first Thai restaurant in the Village and one of the first to open in all of San Diego.
An Eye for Freshness & Simplicity
The menu focuses on Thailand’s more traditional dishes – meaning lots of seafood, basil, and the perfect amount of spices and herbs. The food is flavorful, but simple; the chefs wanted to maintain the true Thai food experience without over-complicating it. They never use MSG, and every ingredient is guaranteed fresh: each morning, the chef comes in with a bag of fresh vegetables and herbs and chops them all up to use for the day. Nothing is ever frozen or kept on hot plates. Many of their dishes can actually be made gluten free, and nearly everything is vegetarian friendly.
From Spring Rolls to Panang Curry Salmon: The Menu
We sat down for an incredible dining experience and enjoyed appetizers to dessert and everything in between (the Thai Iced Tea is top notch!). We started off with the Summer Rolls, which really stood out – they aren’t just your typical spring roll. Chock full of bits of egg, rice noodles, julienne carrots, alfalfa sprouts, and other veggies, they’re topped with a creamy lime dressing and served with peanut sauce in an ultra-fresh take on the classic roll. The rice paper outside is actually the chef’s own recipe – he personally crafted it more than fifteen years ago when he first began at Spice & Rice Thai Kitchen.
The pineapple fried rice was also a real treat. Fresh brown rice sauteed with chicken, shrimp, fresh pineapple, cashew nuts, and raisins, served inside half of a freshly cut pineapple. It’s the perfect amount of sweet and savory; the pineapple adds a nice touch. The grilled chicken satay arrived next, and we were pleasantly surprised by the intense flavors – the chicken is marinated overnight in a sweet mixture of coconut cream, herbs, and spices, and the peanut sauce is mixed with red curry paste to give it a little pizzazz.
Our favorite entree was their newest addition to the menu – the Panang Curry Salmon. A filet of grilled wild salmon is dressed with a yellow Panang curry sauce and served with sauteed broccoli and carrots, rice, and a few leaves of crispy basil to top it off. The salmon is melt-in-your-mouth good, and the sauce is a perfect addition – not too heavy, but flavorful enough to make us devour the entire thing!
We finished off the feast with their signature Mango with Sweet Sticky Rice, a great ending to an incredibly flavorful meal: bite-sized slices of fresh mango served beautifully alongside their signature sweet and sticky rice, which is cooked with coconut milk and cumin powder and topped with sesame seeds – a palate-pleasing combination of healthy and sweet.
Spice & Rice Thai Kitchen is located at 7734 Girard Avenue; you can reach them at (858) 456-0466 to place an order or just visit their website. Drop in for lunch or get it to go – they have awesome lunch specials!
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