Thai Cuisine would be completely inconspicuous if it weren’t for its bright yellow exterior. Even the name, as suitable as it is, is laughably generic. In fact, it seems tailor-made for one of those “Who’s on First?” type of scenarios:
“Where are you going for dinner?”
“Oh, I love Thai food. Which restaurant are you going to?”
“I understand. Which Thai place are you going to?”
Its cheery yellow front makes it a standout on Liberty Avenue in Bloomfield, a strip already busting at the seams with decent places to dine. As generic as the name is, the experience dining there is anything but. In full disclosure, I’ve eaten Thai Cuisine numerous times, including dining in and ordering to-go, and I’ve never had a bad meal there. Ever.
My partner’s parents were in town and kindly took us to dinner. Now my partner has a few favorites in this town, all of which he sticks to with a fierce loyalty that echoes the devotion he has to his favorite sports teams. Knowing Thai Cuisine as well as I do, I understand completely why he’s always eager to go there. Luckily for us, his parents don’t seem to disagree.
The entrance into Thai Cuisine is a front counter with a tiny bit of seating, usually reserved for staff purposes. To the left is a dining room, comfortably fitted with about twenty + tables. Our server sat us in the window, always a fantastic place to dine, especially – oddly enough – on rainy days. Something about watching Liberty Avenue through the rain-streaked glass windows of the warmly lit Thai Cuisine dining room is even lovelier than visiting the restaurant on a good weather day. The interior is comforting in its style: Nice, elegant in simplicity, down-to-earth enough for jeans, nice enough for fancier dress.
Three of us ordered hot tea, but James’s dad having experienced the deliciousness last visit, ordered the Thai Iced Tea. It closer resembles a milkshake than the creamy iced tea served at other establishments. I love the color of Thai Cuisine’s Thai Iced Tea. It’s rosier and a bit sweeter than the normal and, judging by the recollection of our visitor, memorably tasty.
We all shared starters, fresh spring rolls with tofu for James and I, fried spring rolls for Greg and James’s mom. While I love the fried spring rolls at Thai Cuisine – the filling is always fresh tasting and warm, never tasting reheated or warmed-over – the fresh spring rolls are really where it’s at for me. They’re absolutely stuffed with shredded cabbage, tofu, sprouts, etc, but they’re surprisingly easy to eat without spraying filling every which way. The plum sauce is light and slightly garlicky without the syrupy consistency of generic duck sauce.
The joys of Thai Cuisine’s house-made sauces continue with their entrees. I can’t resist talking up the sweet and sours, of which the men at the table ordered a variation each. For James, sweet and sour with mock duck and brown rice. He’s gotten this before, and I remember hosting immediate jealous feelings when I compared my dish to his…. that is, until I actually started eating my curry and it hit me in the face with its tremendousness. The Thai Cuisine sweet and sours are delicate heaps of vegetable and protein, all slickly covered in a mellow sauce that lacks the electric pink or overwhelming sweetness of other sweet and sour sauces, but still packs a ton of flavor. The mock duck, craftily textured and a little salty in flavor, works perfectly against the more neutral vegetables used in the dish, and the sauce is the perfect in-between point.
James’s dad went for the sweet and sour pork, and I can’t say that his looked any less terrific. Instead of heavy-duty chunks of breaded and fried pork intermixed with chopped up veggies in a nuclear sauce, he had a plate of perfect proportions – vegetables, protein, sauce. While James went for an “eight” in heat, his dad ordered his on the other side of the heat spectrum and declared it to be just about right for his tastes.
An eight? Wuss. Me and James’s mom have a bunch of things in common, but our shared love of spicy foods is absolutely in the top ten. His mom went for a three-flavored chicken which came out a deep crimson. She described the chicken as breaded and fried to a light crunch, with perfectly tender white meat underneath. She had ordered hers at 10 for heat, and she was very happy with the level that it came at, ignoring the extra spice tray our server had generously offered upon learning of our affinity for spice. Steamed broccoli accompanied her chicken, but this was truly a protein-focused dish. Is it weird to think an entrée beautiful? Because I couldn’t stop staring at the color of the three-flavored chicken.
I am typically a slave to the curry at Thai Cuisine. I love Thai curries, and of the ones I’ve had, Thai Cuisine has some of the best. But I got my typical bout of angst about changing up my routine, so I went for the Spicy Basil Noodle, at a heat level of “as hot as they can possibly make it.” It was good. Decent. I forget that the wide, flat noodles used in the majority of the noodle dishes really aren’t my favorite. There’s something about the texture of these noodles that starts off pleasing enough, but starts to feel kind of slimy by the end. It’s no fault of the kitchen. Like my mild disappointment with the sweet and sour at Silk Road, I had to realize that it wasn’t a fault of the dish to live up to my expectations, but a fault of my tastes that I didn’t 100 percent enjoy what the dish had to offer. Aside from the noodle texture, I love every bit of the Spicy Basil Noodle entrée, and with mock duck, the vegetables were well met with the slightly greasy, slightly chewy faux-fowl protein.
Thai Cuisine meals run a little higher than your average Thai restaurant, but the jump in quality is noticeable, and the portions are generous to say the least. The problem with the food is that it’s so good, one cannot stop eating it. Not a single one of us was able to put down our forks (or chopsticks) and save a little for later. I have the same problem when I get takeout: I always hope that I’ll be able to save half for lunch the next day and I never, ever do.
A quick note on the service: Whomever has written that they received shabby service at Thai Cuisine must have had a server that didn’t last there long, cause I’ve never had less than a great experience with the wait staff. Quick with suggestions, accommodating, and attentive, they’ve never given me the slightest cause for complaint. I’m not saying that people might not have received bad service over the years – bad days, bad servers, bad experiences happen even in the best of restaurants – I just think that their negative experience was the exception rather than the rule.
Thai Cuisine is one of my favorite spots in Pittsburgh. It’s a perfect place to take a date, take an out-of-town visitor, take family, take a mixed crowd of eaters. The atmosphere is pleasant, the service is great, and the food (the food!) is devourable. If you live anywhere near Bloomfield make a point to experience this great establishment.