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Lunch Review: Nice Thai

| Thursday, April 27, 2006

I've been hearing about The Green Mango, a small takeout place in Edgewood, for awhile now, with several credible witnesses proclaiming it "the best Thai food in Pittsburgh."

Now, that may sound like faint praise -- like "the best quarterback in Cleveland" -- but Pittsburgh actually has had a pretty significant boom in Thai restaurants during the past five years. So many, in fact, that they've even started to specialize.

There's the elegant traditional Thai of Bangkok Balcony, Thai with training wheels at My Thai, tasty Thai to go at Zaw's and creative new Thai cooking at Typhoon.

But noodle for noodle, the best Thai food in Western Pennsylvania may be at the Green Mango, especially as served at its new branch, the Noodle Hut in Regent Square. It's a skinny little room with small tables, tiny track lighting and a small counter in back serving a brisk pickup business.

Bonus points: There's a PlayStation 2 hooked up to a TV on a table by the window.

The Chicken Mango Salad ($6.95) is either a hefty starter or a light entree, which features thin slices of grilled chicken breast, fresh tomato, mango, cucumbers, cilantro and red onions on a bed of green leaf lettuce. An invisible spicy lime sauce nicely amplifies the flavor and unifies the salad's disparate array of textures and consistencies.

The Curry Beef and Pumpkin ($11.99) is as exotic and strange as it sounds, but its rich, lightly spiced flavors should intrigue all but the most timid palates. The bowl is filled with a dark, rusty orange-colored curry, which conceals thin slices of beef and green Asian pumpkin. The delicate heat of lemongrass and galangal really stick out in the curry, and little pieces of kaffir lime are unearthed with almost every spoonful.

The Tofu With Basil ($10) was absolute perfection, even though nothing is ever spicy enough for my usual lunchtime companion. It's a simple dish of Thai basil leaf, sliced onions and Asian eggplant, but what makes it superior is the size of the ingredients. Americans tend to like food, especially meat, cut large, but Thai food is best cut into smaller pieces, which can absorb spices better. The tofu was cut small enough to soak in all of the dish's complex flavors. Additional Information:

The Green Mango Noodle Hut

Hours: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and 4-9 p.m. Mon.-Sat.; noon-8 p.m. Sun.

Address: 1109 S. Braddock Ave., Regent Square

Phone: 412-244-3310

I didn't get to try ...

For dessert, someday, I'll get the Homemade Thai Custard, which might take the edge off an overheated mouth.

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