Restaurant Review: Thai Tip

Thai Tip

Ari LeVaux
6 min read
The Spice Must Flow
Thom yum soup (Eric Williams
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Thai Tip has been on my radar for as long as I’ve been critiquing restaurants in Albuquerque, thanks to the number of Thai food enthusiasts who have named it as their favorite spot in town. Having finally made it there myself, I can see why it’s won so many hearts. It’s a charming place, squeezed into one of the smallest restaurant spaces in town, tucked into a mall on the east side of Wyoming, just north of Constitution. Its size and popularity means it can be quick to fill up, and the patience with which the dishes are cooked means it can take a while to get served. But if you order correctly, it will be worth the wait because many dishes at Thai Tip are very unique, not to mention tasty.

Top-of-the-list on both counts is Bobby’s green bean tempura salad, which the menu accurately describes as “yummy.” It’s nothing short of an elegant masterpiece I suspect isn’t available anywhere else on Earth, with the possible exception of Bobby’s house. Tempura-fried green beans, some of them fried in clumps, are tossed with tomato and onion chunks, a clever combination that adds onion spice and tomato acid to the fried goodness. The masterstroke is delivered by a brilliant dressing of coconut and fish sauce that’s so good (and so secret) the server couldn’t tell me what’s in it because he said apologetically, he wasn’t privy to the recipe himself.

The only other dish whose ingredients are also kept a trade secret, the server said, was John’s tea. This intriguing endorsement gave me little choice but to try it. It tasted like heavily sweetened, very strong ginger tea, so strong that I couldn’t detect any other flavors in the blend. It was a tasty enough cup of tea if you can handle the sweetness, but it wasn’t a surprising poetic gestalt like the green bean salad dressing was.

To my taste, unfortunately, many of the dishes at Thai Tip were similarly oversweet, most notably the pineapple curry dish. The pineapple curry was otherwise interesting, with bamboo shoots balancing the pineapple pieces. The dish is popular with the online commenting community, so take my objections with a lump of sugar, if that’s your thing. The other curries were sweet as well, although less so, and generally unremarkable compared with others to be had in this town. The same could be said for the noodle dishes, some of which leaned sweet, such as the
pad se ew, wide noodles with broccoli. The pad Thai was sweet as well, although tangy was the dominant flavor. In the spicy noodles with basil, meanwhile, salty was the dominant flavor.

But across the board the most dominant flavor of all has to be chile heat, the available gradations of which include mild, medium, New Mexico hot and Thai hot—the latter of which the servers have been known to dissuade customers from selecting. We had kids in our party, and so asked for mild with self-medication chile options on the side. Apparently the word “mild” doesn’t translate in the Thai Tip kitchen. At least our kids can handle a little bit of spice, so it was okay. Meanwhile, the accompanying condiments were a treat, including sliced green Thai chilies in fish sauce and vinegar, mashed soft red chile, dried red chile flakes and a Sriracha-like sauce.

While the curries and fried noodles came in about par for Albuquerque restaurant levels, the soups and salads were well above average. The thom yum was just about perfect, tangy and raspy, swirling with acidic flavors and the fragrant aromas of lemongrass and lime leaves, and in the case of the seafood version, chocked full of mussels, squid and shrimp. The thom kha, which is essentially the same soup with added coconut, was similarly excellent.

And while the Bobby’s green bean salad stole the show, it was in good company in the salad department. All of the salads—indeed, nearly all of the dishes on the menu—were beautifully plated. The papaya salad was simple and basic, which was just fine with us, consisting of little more than papaya and carrot shards in that fishy fish sauce that would be too fishy in any other context. We let them serve this one medium, as we knew the kids wouldn’t want any, and Thai Tip’s medium would be hot in any other context.

The silver noodle salad was beautiful and tasty as well, composed of bean thread noodles tossed with chicken, shrimp and veggies in a spicy, tangy sauce with pungent shards of mint. Another great salad was the yum nua, or Thai-style beef salad, which included plenty of charred beef tossed with an assortment of veggies in a lime sauce. The beef went well with a Columbia Crest Merlot I selected from the short but serious wine list, which described the various notes one should expect in great detail. My glass supposedly contained “aromas of raspberries, black pepper and earthy tones. Flavors of chocolate covered cherries and plum preserves.” I can’t vouch for that level of detail or the chocolate covered cherries, but I was happy to be drinking it.

If your sweet tooth wasn’t completely sated by that pineapple curry, there are some options to consider in the dessert department. Alas there weren’t any mangos when I went, so I took my sticky rice with a scoop of homemade coconut ice cream. On another visit we paired coconut ice cream with a pair of batter-fried wontons filled with banana and chocolate, which evaporated effortlessly in front of our mouths. But the most interesting dessert of all was a tapioca pudding with coconut shards, creamy with coconut milk was decidedly more salty than sweet. I should have learned by now to expect the unexpected from Thai Tip. Sometimes sweet, sometimes salty, sometimes spicy and sometimes …

Thai Tip

1512 Wyoming NE


Hours: 11am to 9pm Monday through Friday

5pm to 9pm Saturday

Closed Sunday

Vibe: Cozy

Plastic: Yes

Booze: Beer and wine

The Alibi recommends: Bobby’s green bean tempura salad, papaya salad, thom yum/thom kha

The Spice Must Flow

Papaya salad

Eric Williams

The Spice Must Flow

Bobby’s green bean tempura salad

Eric Williams

The Spice Must Flow

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