The venerable Polish bar in Pittsburgh will close for good after Saturday night after nearly 32 years.
Some eateries have modest goals. Maybe they seek to just turn a marginal profit, or to create food that's only marginally edible to gouge ballpark-goers. Some bars serve food only to pad the stomachs of patrons so the Jaeger bombs and appletinis slide down easier.
But some have loftier aspirations. They have an earnest desire to share their culinary heritage with the world based on a belief that all people should have access to cheap, delicious food (aka The Creed of Munch). Curry Away, a small Thai restaurant hidden (seriously, your GPS might have trouble finding it) along the Parkway East in Edgewood, falls more along those lines.
"We are a group of young dreamy people who believe that what 65 million people on the other side of the world deem tasty, delicious, yummy will leave the same impression on the people here in Pittsburgh," reads the restaurant website. "That's why we furiously work on each dish to make it as close as possible to what we've been growing up with. Why don't you just let us curry you away?"
Munch brought along an exhausted and famished bunch, who, like Munch, sought to be "curried away." "WHEN ARE WE GOING TO THE HUNGRY STORE?!!" asked Doesn't Act Her Age Friend of Munch, in real life, a syringe-wielding anesthesiologist. So, too, came along another friend from the hospital, Strictly Vegetarian Friend of Munch, who had started making hungry dinosaur noises ("rawwrr rawrr hypoglycemic rawwrr"), and from the office, Notre Dame Friend of Munch.
Maybe it was the hunger-inspired delirium, but we were all a little confused when we walked into the dining room which, literally, holds just tables and chairs. It's the kind of ambience the yells, "We're so serious about food that we didn't have time to add tchotchkes." A cluster of picnic tables outside might have beckoned us if a storm hadn't been brewing. (A Thai-foon?)
We started with the Curry Away Trio ($6.95), a combination of fried spring rolls stuffed with chicken, crab Rangoon and coconut prawns, which come wrapped in a spring roll-like jacket and deep-fried. The menage came out piping hot and was matched with a syrupy sweet, sauce-y concoction. The coconut prawns could have used a little more coconut, but overall the appetizers got a thumbs up around the table. As did the fried tofu satay $5.95, which were slathered in a curry sauce and fried to obtain a deep crust, which even the carnivorous Munch will concede were nearly as satisfying as the meat variety. The satay came served with peanut sauce and cucumbers and onions swimming in a sweet sauce.
DAHAFOM ordered her favorite, pumpkin curry with shrimp ($12.95), which came in a pleasantly spicy yellow curry sauce. The pumpkin was nicely cooked, but the shrimp were a little on the tough side. NDFOM's red curry with chicken ($10.95), tender pieces of chicken with bamboo shoots floating in a rich, coconutty gravy also was a standout effort.
SVFOM's pad see ew with tofu ($10.95) were a little disappointing, with the noodles tough and slightly underdone. But they didn't skimp on the veggies, loading it up with still-crisp broccoli. SVFOM, who likes his food spicy enough to induce spontaneous combustion in his mouth, also complained that even at a 10, it wasn't spicy enough.
We polished off the meal with the black rice with coconut and taro, a dish one might liken to rice pudding ($3.95), which left us practically sedated with satiation.
Overall, Munch was pleased with the effort. Our waiter was eager, checking on our table frequently, and the food was very affordable. And in spite of the occasional blaring horn of a passing train and the restaurant's unfortunate location next to the rush of the Parkway East, it managed to deliver the sort of serenity promised in its name.