Location: 247 Edgewood Ave., Edgewood. 412-731-0740
Hours: Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sun. noon-9:15 p.m.
Prices: Starters $4.50-6.50; lunches $6-8; dinners $9-12
Atmosphere: Tiny take-out counter plus tables for two
Smoking: None permitted
Several years ago, we enjoyed fine Thai take-out from a strip-mall storefront along the busway in Edgewood. The enterprise grew to a mini-empire with sit-down locations Downtown and in Regent Square before simplifying to just the one Braddock Avenue venue. Happily, in its wake, new Thai restaurants sprang up in both of its former locations, maintaining the density and increasing the diversity of Pittsburgh's Thai food possibilities.
The Edgewood location is now the home of Thai Tom Yum Kung, or Thai TYK. The tiny space is a jewel box lined in burgundy and studded with souvenirs of Thailand. The owners have added a few tables inside, plus a couple on the sidewalk, to accommodate small parties dining in as well as waiting for take-out; it would be an intimate place for a date or for renewing an old acquaintance. The room is bright and the staff friendly, and the extensive menu had us wondering how many dishes we could sample in one sitting.
All of your Thai favorites -- curries, noodle dishes and stir-fries -- are here, plus a few generic Chinese-American items like wonton soup and steamed dumplings. But what excited us were the new-to-Pittsburgh offerings like Tiger Cry Beef and Jungle Curry. We chose to sample both the new and the known, the better to gauge TYK's expertise against our own experience.
The first couple of familiar dishes were promising. Chicken satay is often rote chicken-on-a-stick with a sauce that tastes like nothing more than plain peanut butter, but this chicken took its saffron-yellow coating from an assertive curry rub, while the ground peanut sauce was spicy with an almost smoky flavor.
A curry aficionado, Angelique weighed her options: red, green, yellow, pineapple, pumpkin, duck, "jungle," Masman or Panang. The last is her all-time favorite, and she had to see if Thai TYK's measured up to her high standards. It did: The cinnamon-colored curry achieved a balanced depth of flavor from its alchemy of chilies, keffir lime leaves, fish sauce, and other herbs, spices, and seasonings. Its peppery, citrusy, herbal notes thoroughly infused the vegetables and tender chicken (Angelique's choice of protein, though the traditional preparation is with beef).
Against these successes, Pad Thai, that staple of Thai restaurant cuisine, was a disappointment. While the consistency of the dish, with delicate rice noodles and plentiful tender-crisp vegetables, was quite good, the signature tamarind flavor of the dish was barely detectable, becoming apparent only after repeated bites. The shrimp were small, and the ground peanuts were clustered on only part of the dish.
In contrast, the Tiger Cry Beef made a big impression, with thin, tender strips of deliciously marinated meat and contrasting hot and sweet sauces. The sweet was cloying, but the spicy tiger cry sauce -- crushed chilies floating in a thin, dark liquid -- was certainly enough to bring tears to our eyes. Patties of sticky rice provided the necessary relief for our palates.
In the fried mussels, another new-to-us dish, big green mussels were mixed into a batter and then fried, batter and all, making a light, fluffy pancake studded with the meaty seafood. The pancake was reminiscent of fried chicken breading, and the bed of sprouts, scallions and cilantro provided brightness and freshness for a balanced dish.
We looked forward to our fish basil stir fry, whose ingredient list included many of our favorite things: basil, fish (tilapia or catfish), garlic, bamboo shoots, zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers and onions. Unfortunately, the sauce saddened the battered fish and vegetables alike, and we would not order this dish again.
Nevertheless, Thai Tom Yum Kung has got the right stuff to keep us coming back: good service, good prices, and above all, good food. It may be tiny, but with so many dishes on the menu, including many being served for the first time in these parts, Thai TYK is the biggest little Thai restaurant in Pittsburgh.JR: