Aroi in Rhinebeck has spice appeal

Restaurant dishes up authentic Thai cuisine

Author: Meridith Ferber
Posted: Friday, January 23, 2009
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aroi Thai Restaurant
55 E. Market St., Rhinebeck
845-876-1114
www.aroirhinebeck.com
$12-$18

The Hudson Valley is filled with wonderful restaurants offering everything from Tuscan fare to the classics found in the American bistro. But, on a recent night out, my husband and I were in the mood for something new – Thai cuisine.

Located in the heart of the Village of Rhinebeck, aroi is housed in a quaint Colonial. Upon entering we were greeted by calming and welcoming greens and blues with Eastern-inspired accents. Aroi has two dining areas, with one room catering to larger groups, as well as an outdoor garden patio, complete with water feature, for dining in the warmer months.

The menu offerings are Thai staples as well as seasonal specials, with appetizer and main course choices for the seafood lover, meat lover and vegetarian. When we arrived our waitress seated us and described to us the night’s specials.

After leaving to give us a few minutes to review the menu, she returned to answer our questions. I asked about the difference between Thai Spring Rolls and Fresh Rolls (one is deep fried and the other is wrapped in a fresh spring roll skin).

The waitress also pointed out some appetizer “favorites”, such as Chicken Satay and Tofu with Yum Mango. We chose these appetizers, and while I had a glass of Riesling (a traditional pairing with Thai food) my husband chose a Thai beer.

Our drinks, along with ice water, were promptly served and the waitress asked for our order. Unable to narrow down our choices, we indulged and shared a bowl of Chicken Tom Kar soup – a coconut broth with mushrooms seasoned with galangal, chili and lime juice.

For an entree my husband chose Beef Panang (Thai herbs and spices blended in chili pasted with kaffir lime leaves and peas simmered in coconut milk). I finally settled on Chicken Thai Cashew Nut (stir-fried chicken in Thai spicy sauce with onions, bell peppers, water chestnuts, peas and cashew nuts). I asked whether the menu items marked as spicy could be prepared with less heat, and our server assured me that this request could be easily accommodated.

Our appetizers arrived quickly and were beautifully presented. The serving size was perfect for sharing, though after one bite the idea of sharing went out the window. The Fresh Rolls were beautifully prepared and colorful. The accompanying sweet chili sauce brought out a delicious complexity of the herbs and vegetables. My husband’s Tofu with Yum Mango was also beautifully prepared and offered another range of flavors.

Shortly thereafter, our Chicken Tom Kar soup arrived and our waitress placed it in the center of the table with two spoons. Coconut and mushrooms aren’t a combination I’m used to, but I was pleasantly surprised by the mixture of sweet and savory. The subtle hint of coconut mixed with the chicken and mushroom was accented by hints of lime and spice of chili. Superb!

Our waitress checked on us, making sure that we were happy with our food thus far, and cleared our plates. After a few minutes our main dishes were presented. My husband’s Beef Panang was served in two dishes, a plate with rice and a bowl containing the beef curry.

My Chicken Thai Cashew Nut was, without question, one of the most delicious meals I have been served. The cashews, chicken and peppers mixed beautifully with the spicy sauce. The portion was perfect and I finished the entire meal without feeling hungry or like I had over-eaten. My husband was equally satisfied with his dish; when I tasted his selection it was an entirely different set of flavors, but just as complex and satisfying. 

For dessert we chose pumpkin custard; an ice cream sampler consisting of green tea, jackfruit and ginger ice creams; and banana spring rolls, which was one of the evening’s specials. The pumpkin custard was delightful, with hints of maple and pumpkin in a flan-like presentation. The ice cream was refreshing and the flavors were perfectly in sync with one another. Finally, the banana spring rolls were warm, crisp and decadent – the perfect ending to a scrumptious meal.

Our experience at aroi was fantastic to say the least. It’s the perfect spot for a romantic dinner, a girl’s night out or a get-together with a group of friends. The atmosphere, food, and service are comparable to any Manhattan Thai restaurant, but aroi is located far from the noise, congestion and stuffiness you would find in a similar establishment. Aroi truly is a treasure to be discovered in the heart of Rhinebeck.

Looking for another great place to eat? Turn to our Restaurant Guide anytime!

Meridith Ferber is a freelance writer and a mother of three living in Dutchess County.
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