After crossing the border back into the good old USA from Canada, it was time to visit a border-crossing restaurant – namely Saigon Bangkok (the borders being Vietnam and Thailand, which of course don’t even border each other). Where many Asian restaurants purport to be one thing while offering additional options, Saigon Bangkok unabashedly offers multiple options and keeps them limited to just that. While I’m a fan of both cuisines, in this case I concentrated all my efforts on Thai.
Over in Shadyside, Noodlehead may rule the Thai food scene with low prices and good eats. But atop Squirrel Hill, looking down upon Shadyside, sits Bangkok Balcony. This top-floor restaurant fancies things up a bit and has a whole lot more food to offer. Yet, we all know that more options doesn’t necessarily mean better food and I had every intention of finding out if Bangkok Balcony fell into this trap.
A long time ago in a state far, far away, I fell in love with a little something called Umami Burger. As “umami” is a Japanese word and not exactly trademark-able, it was inevitable that I would run across a restaurant using the same name at some point, but was still surprised to find a place called Umami in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. Why was I in such a place? Oh, to please my wife who likes a little something called Jeni’s Ice Cream. But that is neither here nor there. What really matters is Umami.
What do you do when you’re stuck in San Francisco’s Financial District late at night and looking for an actual meal? I sure as hell didn’t know the answer, but my friends guided me to Osha Thai, a place that apparently has multiple locations, but the one we went to was ready and willing to take in a sizable crew. After a lengthy debate about what to eat, who wanted to be a part of the family-style and how I was going to get my share of meat, we made our order.
Noodlehead is a funny name for a restaurant. But then, Deadhead is a weird name for people who follow a band called the Grateful Dead. I know you’re thinking apples and oranges, but hey, if you like noodles, why not be a Noodlehead? In this case, though, the noodles are limited to the Thai variety, but Noodlehead has plenty to offer.
You know how some restaurants don’t seem to have an identity? You know, like Jack in the Box but in full restaurant form. Well, Sun Penang in Squirrel Hill is one of those restaurants. The only identity it really has is “Asian,” but Asian covers a lot of groups and so does Sun Penang. From Thai to Dim Sum to Malaysian, it is a hard place to choose a meal, but choose I did.
Before departing the land of Los Angeles, I had a couple of restaurants to knock off of my to-eat list mixed in with the number of restaurants I had to eat because I knew I would miss them. One from the former category was Night + Market, a Thai restaurant that wasn’t just your ordinary Thai restaurant. With an air of authenticity, I heard Night + Market boasts some spicy food, and while that wouldn’t be in the cards due to some mild white people I was with, I was still eager to see the flavors they had to offer.
Before attending an event in Westwood, my woman and I decided to see what the college town had to offer in terms of dinner. Sure, I had eaten in Westwood many times before, but typically with specific places in mind. This time, it was about walking around and picking dinner based on our gut, which led us to Noodle World. I had expected something like Noodles & Company, which makes dishes from all sorts of noodles, but Noodle World has a lot more options, while keeping its noodles Asian. No mac and cheese here.
Over in Palms, a relatively new Thai place called Moo Moo threw its hat into the ring of Westside Thai restaurants. The place has a decidedly authentic flair inside despite the brightly colored lettering on its sign. In this case, I mean authentic in that it has the ambiance of a little corner Mexican restaurant with hastily cobbled seating arrangements.
Did you know there was a big Thai contingent in the valley? And I’m not talking about a string of Thai restaurants, I’m talking about a spot in the north end of North Hollywood where signs for auto repair shops and dry cleaners are both in Thai as well as English. Here, on a stretch of Sherman Way is a restaurant called Krua Thai, which Jonathan Gold once claimed to have the best Pad Thai in LA.