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Curry on Murray is Thai for the mouth and the eye

| Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2012, 10:10 p.m.
Several dishes line the table at the new restaurant Curry on Murray in Squirrel Hill on Thursday, July 26, 2012. Clockwise from top left: Pad Thai with shrimp, a green coconut curry with chicken, seasonal mango sticky rice for dessert, and curry puffs in the lower left corner. Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
A Thai iced tea compliments fresh rolls with shrimp and a peanut dipping sauce at Curry on Murray, a new Thai restaurant in Squirrel Hill on Thursday, July 26, 2012. Curry on Murray has a commitment to staying true to traditional Thai flavor and ingredients. Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Curry on Murray, a new Thai restaurant in Squirrel Hill, serves up a mango salad with shrimp on Thursday, July 26, 2012. Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
A hot green curry with chicken is one of the many Thai dishes from Curry on Murray in Squirrel Hill, as seen on Thursday, July 26, 2012. The new restaurant celebrated its grand opening on July 12. Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review

Can't afford to shell out a couple grand to go to Bangkok this summer?

Proprietors of Curry on Murray in Squirrel Hill say their menu is about as authentic as you can get without needing a passport or getting jet-lagged.

Owner Werakul “Rhee” Laoworakiat says dishes sold at the casual sit-down eatery on Murray Avenue replicate the taste, texture and, yes, tongue-gripping spice of those served in his native Thailand.

Curry on Murray had its “soft opening” in June, and its grand opening July 12. The business occupies what was once the Sababa Middle Eastern Grill, featuring high ceilings and chic, airy industrial-style decor.

Here you can slurp long, stringy noodles from big bowls while washing it down with a refreshing blast of neon-colored Thai iced tea.

Sure, there are the you-can't-go-wrong Thai staples, such as pad thai ($10.95), mango salad ($11.95) and lemongrass soup ($5.95).

And there are house specialties — including chicken or taro curry puffs and ka prao ($11.95), a dish made with ground pork or chicken — that have gained traction with customers.

And there are the curries, a dizzying array of them, ranging from more commonly known green ones, red ones and yellow ones, to duck, massaman and panang curries ($11.95 to $13.95).

There's even pineapple and pumpkin curry.

“People are learning about us, and the word's getting out. They want this,” says Sakkapas Nukulkarn, 33, the restaurant's manager. “We know Squirrel Hill has a lot of Asian restaurants, a lot of choices ... but we try to bring that taste of Thailand to them here, something new.”

The restaurant has added acoustic jazz musicians performing on Friday and Saturday nights.

Asian cuisine is nothing new to Squirrel Hill. In fact, there are about five or six other Asian restaurants within a few blocks, including two others that cater to the Thai palate.

Laoworakiat, an engineer by trade, also runs the Curry Away restaurant in Edgewood, and reached out to Nukulkarn to run Curry on Murray. Nukulkarn once was a manager at the Silk Elephant, an upscale Thai restaurant a few blocks farther down Murray, and the two have known each other for several years and became chums while playing pick-up soccer games on the weekends.

Laoworakiat says his chefs capture the taste of Thailand, even though some ingredients — such as genuine Thai basil — can be hard to come by in Pittsburgh.

“We just want people to give us a chance,” says Laoworakiat, 44. “Millions of people in Thailand have been eating it and enjoying it forever, so there's something to it.”

Curry on Murray, 2121 Murray Ave., Squirrel Hill. Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays, noon to 10 p.m. Saturdays, noon to 9 p.m. Sundays. Details: 412-422-3120

Chris Ramirez is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at cramirez@tribweb.com or 412-380-5682.

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