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Spice and Rice offers a sweet and spicy twist

The fascinating flavors of Thai cuisine are well known to La Jolla diners thanks to local eateries such as the ever-popular Spice and Rice Thai Kitchen.

This neighborhood restaurant, located right on Girard Avenue in the Village, has been dishing out delicious Thai delicacies for years.

Don’t let the “spice” in the name scare you off. The chef will make any dish mild upon request. But many locals have grown to savor the spicier elements in Thai cuisine. In fact, the more Thai food you eat, the more likely you are to build up a tolerance for authentic culinary creations from Thailand.

Besides, spice is only half of the picture when it comes to Thai cuisine. As the menu notes, there are almost as many “Sweet Starters,” and a wonderful blend of sweet and sour flavors.

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Can anyone resist grilled chicken satay? These skewers of chicken marinated in coconut cream and served with the mouthwatering Thai peanut sauce and a cool cucumber vinaigrette ($8.95) have become so mainstream, you’re likely to find them in American restaurants and as tray-passed hors d’oeuvres at many local gatherings. No matter what else you order at Spice and Rice, be sure to include a portion of these beauties.

The large selection of items listed under the “Spicy Starters” section include Phar Goong - spicy grilled shrimp with a spicy chili and lime sauce - served on crispy greens, and as the menu boasts, it’s unforgettable. This appetizer goes for $10.95.

With the warmer weather on the way, the Thai salads are more popular than ever. Try the green papaya salad ($4.95) with one of your main dish selections. But for a meal in one, the grilled chicken satay salad ($10.95) is hard to beat.

Soups are an important part of Thai cuisine, and Spice and Rice offers five different varieties on its regular menu. They’re available with chicken, shrimp, or vegetarian-style and range in price from $4.75 for a bowl to $14.50 for an iron pot.

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The restaurant lists several items on its weekly specials, plus house specialties, such as Panang curry duck with panang curry cream sauce and sauteed veggies ($15.95). You can also opt for a honey glazed duck dish for the same price.

Prawn with curried lobster sauce ($14.95) marries fresh prawns with a yellow curried lobster sauce to excellent effect, and grilled halibut ($12.95) offers a different taste sensation when it’s seasoned with savory spicy chili garlic-ginger sauce.

Rice can stand alone in the pineapple fried rice specialty, although the chef adds chicken, shrimp, pineapple, cashews and raisins before piling the rice into a pineapple shell ($13.95). This is another preparation that’s hard to resist and very striking to the eye.

Most of the main dishes at Spice and Rice are available with chicken, pork, beef, shrimp, squid, scallops or vegetarian, so take your pick when ordering the sauteed eggplant with basil, Thai stir-fry, sauteed spinach, and any of the other dishes on the entree menu ($9.95 - $13.95). Each entree is served with steamed jasmine rice, of course.

From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Spice and Rice offers reasonably priced lunch specials served with salad, an appetizer and steamed jasmine rice. Prices start at $7.95 for chicken, pork or vegetarian versions.

With so many wonderful selections to tempt you for both lunch and dinner, it’s no wonder Spice and Rice is a hands-down favorite with La Jolla diners.

Spice and Rice Thai Kitchen is at 7734 Girard Ave. Call (858) 456-0466.


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