RESTAURANT REVIEW: Pick Thai
"Pick” is the operative word in the name of James Island’s latest player in the Thai restaurant field. Pick as in picking a winner. The steady hand and patience shown in the artful carvings in the dining room also can be found in the vibrant and poised cooking from the kitchen.
What looks like a former pizza place has been fashioned into a minimally sized restaurant (seven tables) painted battleship gray and black. A carved screen buffers the unisex bathroom from the sightlines of the diners, and a spirit house of sorts occupies a corner table.
On it you will find incense,
fresh orchids and gifts of food and in-season, intricately carved melons. Kai sa luk, the art of fruit and vegetable carving, is displayed at Pick with grace and skill. In late fall, finely carved bars of soap replace the melon family of summer — delicate flowers, mythical figures, ornate blossoms decorate the altar. All good omens for knife skills in the kitchen, and the kitchen did not disappoint.
Chris and Ken Sue are producing some of the more vibrant Thai cooking around town.
Expect to see a daily specials board with local fish and seasonal salad ingredients. Their carry-out business is brisk, and their portions are generous. Prices are a tad higher than many Asian restaurants around town, but the quality of the ingredients, the freshness of the herbs and the core recipes are well worth it.
The same craftsmanship demonstrated in the carved soaps can be seen in the paper-thin slices of button mushrooms (not the more traditional straw mushrooms) floating in the tom kha kai ($7.95), a generous bowl that serves two. The coconut milk broth tasted freshly made, and thin stems of cilantro and oval rings of scallions perk up the milky white liquid with verdant color.
The larbs (sour salads) ($6.95) are fresh, well-
seasoned and spiced. Fragrant with toasted rice powder and bright with a balanced lime dressing and chilies, they open your tastebuds for the Thai treats to follow. Think of these as the steak Tartar of Thailand — an ancient and simple dish that cools and refreshes.
Service is polite and the staff checks back on a regular basis to be sure the food is to your liking. The traditional puang prik or condiment caddy is served with an American nod to salt and pepper as well as the Thai nam prik (paste of chiles) and prik, dried chiles.
An order of red curry duck ($18.95) served with steamed jasmine rice possessed the clarity of flavors that makes this dish exceptional: layered heat, succulent meat, rounded curry spices with a “broken” sauce. The duck’s skin was crisp and its flesh tender, poised with crunch and softness in a wash of vibrant sauce.
The kitchen at Pick Thai grills the eggplant for its basil eggplant ($10.95) entree, and the addition of char enhances the taste of this dish, which can be ordered with your protein of choice. Tender “noodles” of pork were the perfect partners to the onions, bell peppers and basil that comprised this dish.
The use of fresh ingredients such as bamboo shoots, vegetable garnishes and red shallots lifted the clarity of flavors in the dishes we
The dessert menu is anchored in the foods of Thailand, and the kitchen makes homemade Thai tea and coconut ice creams. A thin roti (pancake) is filled crepelike with a condensed milk and sugar custard. The Portuguese influence on the foods of Thailand can be seen in the custard offerings. When it comes to Thai dessert basics, Pick does not stray. Look for coconut, palm sugar and sticky rice to prevail.
The beverage menu of beers and wines is limited.
A chilled Singha will complement your eating experience.
When it comes to the lottery of picking an authentic Asian restaurant around town, Pick Thai has the winning number.