Hours: Mon-Sat, 11-9
Atmosphere: Very tasteful take-out
In the ever-shifting kaleidoscope of the local dining landscape, one pattern that stands out especially brightly is the recent profusion of Thai restaurants. Where just five years ago we were limited to a couple of staid options, now we have Thai food to suit almost every mood and budget. Bloomfield is becoming an affordable Little Bangkok, Highland Avenue in Shadyside serves Thai-inspired meals in a contemporary bistro style, and an unassuming storefront adjacent to the Busway in near-suburban Edgewood offers what may be Pittsburghs best Thai cuisine to go.
The Green Mango has been in business for about six months, and word is spreading of its simple, authentic preparations. When our friends from New York, who are understandably a little snobbish about restaurant food, told us this was the best Thai theyve had since moving here, we woke up and smelled the curry. Within 24 hours, we had ordered ourselves a feast.
The Green Mangos small space is surprisingly pleasant for a take-out counter, with freshly painted green walls and three tables for those who cant wait till they get home. Pictures of Thailand add visual flavor, but the aspect of the décor that most impressed us was the pair of shelves displaying the spices, sauces and condiments that are the tools of the kitchens trade. Although the menu boasts of contemporary Thai food, to our palates The Green Mangos fare is deliciously traditional. The menu is brief, not padded with Chinese dishes or generic stir-fries, but rather filled with vivid promises of curry paste, ginger, basil and lemongrass.
We whetted our appetites with tofu summer rolls and Thai beef salad. The rolls, plump packages of lettuce, mint, cilantro, vermicelli and fried bean curd in rice paper-thin wrappers, were dense with fresh garden flavor, and a homemade dipping sauce studded with ground peanuts added a delectable sweet-spicy counterpoint. The beef salads bed of romaine lettuce consisted of a single lonely leaf, while the meat of the dish, so to speak, was strips of barbecued sirloin. The beef could have been more tender -- ideally flank or skirt steak -- but it was intensely flavored with a complex mix of spices. Its heat was sharpened by red onions, then cooled by cucumbers and tomatoes, all in a savory hot chili-lime sauce.
Angelique adores green curry, made by blending a paste of hot green peppers and other spices with nutty, creamy coconut milk. The Green Mango serves it over grilled chicken and a tasty mix of fresh -- not overcooked -- vegetables, including bell peppers, basil leaves, bamboo strips and Asian eggplant. The curry itself was fresh and aromatic, herbal and piquant, and so good Angelique would have drunk it out of a glass.
Lemongrass pork came with The Green Mangos lemongrass sauce, which was thick, russet-colored and mild, with a bright taste inflected, but not dominated, by the citrusy herb. Its reticent flavor was a subtle pleasure, if not quite hearty enough for the large potato chunks that accompanied the fork-tender simmered pork.
The Green Mangos pad Thai impressed us with springy noodles that remained separate after cooking rather than congealing into a mushy mass, and tofu that was firm with a substantial toasty crust. But the peanuts were too finely chopped to add textural contrast, the shrimp were chewy, and the sauce suffused the dish with a singular sweetness where there should have been a play of sweet, savor and tang. A simple wedge of lime might have done wonders for this near-contender.
Though we are still looking for the perfect version of this classic Thai restaurant dish in Pittsburgh, our search for the ultimate Thai take-out stops at The Green Mango. The clean, light flavors that typify Southeast Asian cooking are especially vibrant here, and both the green curry and summer rolls are the best weve had around. The menus offer to cook special dishes on request holds unlimited promise, and we will no doubt return to sample The Green Mangos fresh approach to one of our favorite cuisines.
Jason: 2.5 stars
Angelique: 3 stars