I like spicy.
Shocker, right? I mean, I do love Hispanic/Latino foods, of which many (not all) use hot peppers as part of their dishes - jalapenos, habaneros, serranos, etc.
If you didn't know, many Asian cuisines use these same types of peppers to add spice and flavor to the food. At Pho Van, for example, jalapenos were on the plate with bean sprouts and basil to spice up the pho to the heat level that the diner desired (and I added pretty much all of them).
Nicky's Thai Kitchen in the North Side does something similar.
I had never been to Nicky's, but James goes there quite regularly, as it is not far from work nor from his home. I had never spent any time on the North Side with the exception of the North Shore venues, like Heinz Field, PNC Park, and the Carnegie Science Center. I never really knew that there were flourishing businesses beyond those.
Oh, boy. Are there ever.
The street where Nicky's sits, Western Avenue, looks very small town-like and comforting, not what I expected from the North Side. This is part of the Mexican War Streets section, which I have always been curious about - why is this considered the "Mexican War Streets"? Maybe I should take the tour that the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation offers...
|The staircase to...I have no idea. Nicky's entrance is in the back left corner.|
...anyway, upon entering Nicky's Thai, we were greeted by a large staircase - to which, I do not know where it leads, but beyond that is the restaurant. We were seated almost right away in the small and crowded restaurant -which is also very loud. Very, very loud. It wasn't helpful that there was a large group there at the time, but the acoustics of the restaurant were not ideal - the tables were very close together, and every single sound could be heard.
Despite the noise, James and I were eager to eat some spicy Thai food. We began with Fresh Spring Rolls, which were very fresh and presented well with a side of brown sauce and crushed peanuts. I thought that the sauce was great, but the rolls themselves were not as delicious as the ones at Pho Van.
|Fresh Spring Rolls|
Fearing for my taste buds, James suggested that I get a Thai Iced Coffee, in case the spiciness of what we were about to eat got to me. Um, ok...it was refreshing, I liked it...but what were we about to eat?!
|Thai Iced Coffee|
James ordered two soups for us to share - the first was Tom Yum Soup, which looked similar to pho, and contained mushrooms, tomato, and cilantro in a lemongrass and kaffir lime broth. At Nicky's, they ask you how spicy you want your food on a scale of 1-10. James stuck within the 4-5 range on each dish that we ate, knowing that anything above that can be unbearable (and inedible). I trust his judgement, and I'm glad that I did, because we were both sweating already after eating this soup, which was quite flavorful:
|Tom Yum Soup|
We also tried the Tom Kha soup, which I liked better. I immediately recognized the taste of coconut, which was prevalent along with flavors of tamarind, Galangal root, lemongrass, mushrooms, scallions, and cilantro:
|Tom Kha Soup|
James has visited Nicky's so frequently that he has tried many things on the menu, sometimes asking his server which dish is their own favorite to make his decision. Most people go to a Thai restaurant, see "Pad Thai" on the menu (one of the most commonly known Thai dishes), and order it, since it's what they know.
You know how much I can't stand that. This is why James and I get along so well. He's not afraid to try something new!
He chose the Fish Basil Chef Special, which, according to the menu, is "Crispy tilapia fillets, stir-fried with garlic, basil, bell peppers, yellow onions, egg plant, green bean, bamboo slice, spicy basil sauce." The fish definitely was crispy, but better than your typical fried fish, and stir-fry was for sure a better choice than pad thai.
|Fish Basil (Chef Special)|
Per James's suggestion, I ordered the Gaprow Lad Kao with chicken. Many of these dishes are similar with a few ingredients difference - this was "stir fried with garlic, bell pepper, basil leaves and spicy brown sauce topped with fried egg and served over rice."
|Gaprow Lad Kao with chicken|
Good choice for me. Nice and spicy, but not to the extreme, although more sweat was involved - partially due to the crowded-ness of the restaurant, and partially to the spiciness. Thai food is definitely moving up there on my favorites list.
It seems like we cannot pass on dessert anymore - we can't help ourselves when the meal is so fantastic. For dessert, we ordered the Pumpkin Custard, which honestly and unfortunately, tasted nothing like pumpkin. It was good, but I missed the pumpkin flavor :-( It was very pretty, though:
|Pumpkin (?) Custard|
I can see why James became a regular at Nicky's - delicious, spicy food at reasonable prices for the portion size. Thai food is full of unique flavor combinations like the Vietnamese food that we had tried previously at Pho Van, but in a slightly different style.
Me gusta. Me gusta mucho.
Nicky's Thai Kitchen
856 Western Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15233
321 South Ave.
Verona, PA 15147