a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Try this Thai

It’s easy to miss the Asian-style door beside a futon shop that leads to a trendy Thai restaurant in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill section.

So if Thai food is on your mind, take a minute to and pop into one of the upscale gift shops on Forbes Avenue and ask for directions to Bangkok Balcony.

Rated number one for Thai cuisine in two Pittsburgh newspaper readers’ poll, the restaurant is worthy of a visit. That said, I have never allowed newspaper polls to steer me to a restaurant because I usually suspect that the winners won because their dishwashers had the most friends who sent in ballots. But Thai food is enough to get me to the door.

At the top of a steep, narrow flight of stairs to Bangkok Balcony, beside a second door, is a sign, “Open this door, we open our hearts, for each fragrant mouthful has just one chance to keep its promise. The Nareekomai family.”

The flavor of Thai food, its fragrant blend of spicy, sweet, sour, mint and lime, is what sets it apart from other Asian dishes. And this restaurant’s owners, Norraset and Eileen Nareekomai, have been known to deliver on their promise of great food. They also own a second Thai restaurant around the corner on Murray Avenue, The Silk Elephant, which is my favorite place to eat in this city.

Last weekend, I was more impressed by the couple’s efforts to bring Thai food to the Burgh than the entrée during my first trip to Bangkok Balcony at 5846 Forbes Ave. The small bowl of Thai stew in a sesame broth contained vegetables that were a bit limp and shrimp that was somewhat tough from overcooking. The appetizer, crab Rangoon blended with cream cheese, was perfectly delicious. The bill, at $28, seemed a bit pricey.

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