The small Liberty Avenue restaurant carries the same character of an antique shop; walls covered floor-to-ceiling in artwork and shelves filled with ornaments, a similar mix of homey decorations I’d expect from my small town diner. Dining in feels like eating in someone’s home, with the packed-in tables forcing friendliness with your neighbors.
The menu, compared to many city Thai restaurants, is small, filled with Thai staples and a few cuisine crossovers. There’s the expected: a smattering of appetizers, ranging from spring rolls to satay chicken, noodle dishes, curries, stir-fries, fresh salads and soups, and a couple in-house specials.
And, like any good diner, Thai Gourmet executes staple dishes with excellence.
Due to the pandemic, the restaurant has pivoted to takeout only, featuring an easy-to-use online ordering platform and quick turnaround on pickup. I satisfied a cold-night craving for curry with a small Thai feast: hoi jaw (crispy tofu skin wrapped around a blend of meat and spices), pork dumplings, Chiang Mai mee, pad kee mow, and Massaman curry.
In the few blocks surrounding my home on Liberty Avenue, there are three Thai restaurants: Thai Cuisine, Pad Thai Noodle, and Thai Gourmet. Naturally, I’ve spent the past few years picking out my favorite dishes from each. At Thai Gourmet, it’s the Chiang Mai mee.
The dish is a delight of textures and flavors; yellow curry, the base for egg noodles, onions, and tomatoes, topped with bean sprouts, cilantro, scallions, and crispy shallots. Yellow curry is more mild than red or green, the combination of spices a bit more earthy compared to the other two, and a touch of underlying sweetness combats the spice. The online ordering platform did not ask me for my preferred spice level, and thankfully, this dish was tolerably and pleasantly hot, though the heat lingers.
There’s a mix of interesting pieces to the dish, the deep earthiness of the curry brightened with the fresh cilantro and crunchy zing of shallots. Fresh, sunny tomatoes, slightly cooked by the heat of the dish, add a radiant splash, a surge of tangy, acidic juice exploding into the curry with each bite.
Hoi jaw was the surprising winner of the two appetizers, the crispy tofu skin, wrapped around pork and crab meat, a welcome crunchy start to the meal. I was less impressed with the filling than the fried outer wrapping — it was a bit heavy — but a sweet and sour sauce balanced it out. The dumplings were a bit of a miss, the filling too ginger-forward and overtaking the flavor of the pocked-sized bite.
Of the two remaining entrees, the pad kee mow — thick noodles slathered in a spicy basil sauce paired with snow peas, onions, tomatoes, and topped with bean sprouts — was favored. The thick sauce hit immediately with a strong, fresh basil flavor.
Massaman curry, which takes cues from Malay and Indian cuisine, was bolstered with potatoes, peas, carrots, chickpeas, and warm spices. The chickpeas were a nice addition, but when compared to curry of the Chiang Mai mee, I preferred the earthy yellow.
I’ve ordered more takeout than ever this year, and it’s taught me one thing: some food just doesn’t travel well. But my food from Thai Gourmet — as I’ve found with most soups and curries — stayed fresh and hot on the journey back from the restaurant. And the best part is, and the dishes sit in my fridge overnight, as the flavors soak in even more, they’ll be even better on day two.
Thai Gourmet. 4505 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield. thaigourmetpgh.com