While there are a large number of Thai restaurants within Pittsburgh’s city limits (some restaurants feature multiple locations), in the suburbs the numbers are much smaller. For years there was only one Thai restaurant in the North Hills (an area immediately north of the city) until this past summer with the opening of the Red Orchid. Although it took us a couple of months to make it there, in October we tried it by ordering take out one evening after work. To start we selected Thai samosas to share (which were melt in mouth worthy and not at all as greasy as traditional Indian samosas). For the main course D ordered the Thai fried rice while I had the beef noodle soup (it was basically Vietnamese pho complete with the toppings of bean sprouts, basil, cilantro and peppers; the broth tasted so aromatic). The entree portions were extremely filling and everything had such an excellent taste.
Red Orchid is located in a small shopping strip and I had no idea how tiny the seating portion of the restaurant actually was. We ate there on a Saturday night and arrived early (before 5:30 PM) only to discover that save for one table, all others were taken. Thankfully, a worker separated a table for four and made it for two even though I had to shimmy to the booth side of the table in order to be seated; it is intimate dining in every sense of the word. It also is a bit difficult if you order a lot of dishes since the tables are not always best suited to house them all. I don’t remember what was previously in the space that Red Orchid now occupies and yet it’s clear from its look and decor that major work was done in order for it to achieve the appearance it now has. The decor is pleasing while still being minimal and all tables featured handwoven place mats complete with a miniature one for a utensil. While not at all a fancy place, it still had cloth napkins, which I thought added a degree of classiness.
My only critique with our meal was that service could be somewhat sporadic, ironic since the restaurant is extremely tiny and all diners are always in plain view of the waitstaff (i.e. no one is seated in a corner). After we had been seated and given menus, we waited longer than we should have for our order to be taken, which I think only happened because I stopped a waitress to say we were ready to order as she was rushing off. Also, when we had long since finished our meal, it took a while for anyone to come over so that we could ask for the check. Not that I want to be herded out when dining, but when I haven’t touched my plate in over 10 minutes and my dining companion’s plate is entirely empty, clearly we’re ready for the next step, whether it is asking us if we are interested in dessert or simply want our check. However, during the meal service was attentive enough, with our glasses of water being continually refilled.
We ordered the same appetizer as before, Thai samosas (two for $5.50) and they were just as good the second time. While normally I like to try out new things, I figured that this didn’t fully “count” since my first dining go-round with Red Orchid had just been take-out. The samosas consisted of lightly fried sweet potatoes and curry powder and were served with a cucumber sauce. I stay away from some Asian dipping sauces due to their spicy nature but the cucumber sauce was incredibly mellow.
For my entree I ordered the Chicken Noodle Soup ($11) which consisted of broth flavored with anise and garnished with bean sprouts, scallions, cilantro and roasted garlic. Unlike the broth in the beef noodle soup, I didn’t feel that it was as well seasoned. It was good but it definitely tasted that it was made for someone who needed to reduce their salt intake. When I had it again for leftovers I thoroughly seasoned it myself and it definitely had an improved taste.
D had ordered a chicken dish that featured a peanut sauce.
He also ordered Thai ice tea ($2.50) which is a mix of black tea, spices, sugar, sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk. While seeming to be on the heavier side, at least from the sip I tried, it was definitely good.
Note: Red Orchid is byob.
Although I love trying out as many new restaurants as possible since my list of these is still incredibly long, I do look forward to returning to Red Orchid soon. And as a very new restaurant, hopefully their service kinks will be all worked out by then as well.