Thursday, June 10, 2010

Cheap Eats: Apsara Palace

Upper Hope is my name for the area which extends from the Rochambeau Library (near the Hope/Roch intersection) all the way up through the beginning of East Avenue. The neighborhood has all the dry cleaners, barbers, hairdressers, and pharmacies you'll ever need, great little non-chain shops, a bakery (Seven Stars) and a string of restaurants where you can eat Indian,Thai, Chinese, Cambodian, Vietnamese, Japanese, American fusion (whatever that is), Italian, French, vegan/vegetarian, barbecue, and modern grill. Then you can get a manicure and go for ice cream. In warm months, Chez Pascal has its hot dog stand in Lippitt Park and the Farmers' Market moves in on Saturday mornings (9:30 - 12:30).

APSARA PALACE (783 Hope Street, Providence 401-831-4722) is open every day from 10:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.,10:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. I love the clientele - it's a complete ethnic and economic mixture of Providence - and I love the food. If you're looking for upscale atmosphere, Apsara isn't the place; it's strictly school lunch-room with booths.  

Walking around the neighborhood a few years ago I ventured in because it was full, a propitious sign I thought. Since the first bite of a "fresh roll" (paper thin wrapper, lots of basil, shrimp, cucumber, peanut sauce) I've been a customer, even buying an entire tray of fresh rolls one day to take home to guests.The menu offers an eclectic range of Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese dishes but I mostly choose the Thai and Vietnamese. Partial to all types of fresh rolls and pad thai, I defer to whomever I'm with to make the other choices. Recently we had a Thai red curry which was nothing at all like what we expected, no sauce, just the flavors enveloping long strips of onion, chicken and beans. Scallion pancakes, while not exactly a culinary feat, were crowd-pleasing and light on the oil (a good thing). A shrimp and vegetable dish was delicious. Post-movie hungry, three of us ordered three appetizers and three main dishes, eating until our eyes popped and we had to ask the waiter to divide the leftovers into two boxes.  My plan is to skip old favorites next time; instead, maybe toss a few pennies on the menu and see where they land.

P.S. No liquor license: bring your own beer or wine.
P.P.S. Website has disappeared - just go

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