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When I rolled into Verona to attend a council meeting a few weeks ago, I was surprised to spot a Thai restaurant tucked into a building on South Avenue, not even a block off Allegheny River Boulevard.
Pittsburgh Thai Restaurant by Boris was written in gold lettering across the dark sign hanging above the restaurant. Thai by Boris, eh? I was intrigued.
The space formerly housed the Verona location of Nicky's Thai Kitchen, which now has North Side and Downtown restaurants. Before that, it was a Thai restaurant called O'cha, which existed in the small borough for more than a decade.
My husband and I agreed to meet another couple for Thai in Verona one recent, snowy Saturday evening -- the perfect night for spicy noodles.
We arrived at the restaurant, parked right out front and were seated promptly. The restaurant only has about 10 tables, and most of them were full, some pushed together for large groups of diners.
Pittsburgh Thai Restaurant is BYOB, so we brought a bottle of white and a bottle of red wine. The white was plunked in a bucket of ice, the red opened promptly. I glanced at the menu -- "BYOB, no corkage fee."
Now we're talking, Boris.
The six-page menu is a little bit overwhelming, and it's accompanied by a single sheet of "chef's specials of the month."
We decided to get a sense of how well Boris has mastered the basics and ordered the fresh spring rolls ($5.95) and crab rangoon ($6).
But the appetizer menu also contained interesting concoctions such as "crying tiger beef" ($6.99) -- grilled, marinated beef served with sriracha sauce and sticky rice -- and corn fritters ($5.95). We agreed we could not pass up those, either, and ordered four appetizers.
The spring rolls were solid, and my husband, a bit of a crab rangoon connoisseur, said the little fried crab treats were some of the best he'd ever tasted. The corn fritters were crisp kernels of corn in a thin, crunchy batter that tasted similar to funnel cake. That is not criticism; it is praise.
We expected the crying tiger beef to be spicier than it was and felt the small bowl of sticky rice that accompanied the beef was superfluous.
For entrees, I tried the "tropical bird's nest," which was listed as a monthly chef's special ($16.95). It was a combination of shrimp, chicken and scallops with vegetables in a brown sauce served in a crispy nest-basket made of shredded potatoes.
We were asked our spice preference on a scale of 1 to 10, and, being a heat seeker, I asked for an 8 -- usually a safe bet when you aren't familiar with a restaurant's heat scale. It wasn't as spicy as I tend to like things, so next time I'll ask for a proper, serious 10.
My dining companions ordered tamarind tofu ($11.50), kao soy noodles with tofu ($11.95) and panang curry with chicken ($12.50). The kao soy was ordered at a 10 and much more consistent with the spice level I like, so if you're a fan of spicy food, you want to stay in the 9-10 range at Pittsburgh Thai Restaurant. If you're spice-averse, it'd probably be a good place for you get good Thai food (the vegetables, meat, tofu and seafood were all perfectly cooked) without intense heat.
By the end of the meal, we were too stuffed to order dessert. Next time, we'll go easier on the appetizers so we can sample the black sticky rice with pumpkin custard or a banana coconut roll.
See you soon, Boris.
Pittsburgh Restaurant Thai by Boris is at 321 South Ave., Verona; 412-828-0339.
Annie Siebert: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1613. Twitter: @AnnieSiebert.