|Pinto Thai Kitchen - Warm And Inviting on the Not-so-Nice End of The High Street|
Contemporary Thai Food and a special menu too
'Let us be your pinto' says the menu for Acton's Pinto Thai Kitchen. If you grew up in 1970s North America, that slogan could be seen as an ode to the Ford Pinto, one of the worst cars ever made according to Time Magazine, because it had a rather volatile nature. The car tended to erupt in flame in rear-end collisions.
Thankfully this Pinto leans more to another meaning to the word, which in Thai is a a set of containers to carry meals which are specially prepared and cooked from home. Pinto can also be used as a slang of a mother and wife who provides food for her beloved kids and husband.
The atmosphere at Pinto Thai Kitchen is warm and inviting, in fact the management is not far off calling it a 'kitchen'. Bustling and contemporary, decorated in warm colours with simple wooden furnishings, it's like sitting in someone's comfy front room, with the enticing mixture of Thai food smells wafting out front.
I usually stick to Thai Green Curry as measure of Thai food - a staple on any Thai menu and probably one of the best-known to non-Thai palates. So I thought I'd better be a little more adventurous and see what the kitchen had to offer beyond the norm.
Starters, ranging from £1.50 for prawn crackers to £6.50 for Grilled Giant King Prawns. We ordered the 'Dress-Up Prawn - deep-fried prawns wrapped in rice paper and served with sweet chili sauce, the Barbeque Spare Ribs and the Chicken Satay sticks. I really wanted to try the Hoy Yan - grilled mussels with lemongrass and herbs but I'll save that for next time.
The prawns were fresh and crispy, with perhaps a bit too much 'dress' and not enough prawn. My son's chicken satay was a bit bland but with the chunky peanut sauce, he didn't seem to notice. The ribs could do with a little more kick to them but again, they were meaty and exactly as it said on the menu.
I can't get away at any Thai restaurant without ordering my favourite dish - 'Larb' salad. A specialty in the northeast of the country, this is not for the faint-hearted. Minced chicken or pork (I had the chicken) tossed with shallot, mint, kaffir lime leaves and a healthy dose of chili and lime, this wasn't as good as my Thai friend Wi makes in Chiang Mai, but it wasn't bad. I had enough left over of everything for lunch the next day and the Larb certainly woke me up.
The drinks menu at Pinto Thai is wonderful and good value. Recently granted a licence to serve alcohol, there is a good selection of global wines ranging from a Portenova Pinto Grigio at £13.95 to a New Zealand Wairau River Sauvignon Blanc at £18.95 in the whites, and a crisp Californian white zinfandel to a bottle of Sangiovese red at £12.95.
I also recommend the cocktail menu - everything from Mojitos to the tantalizing 'Pinto's Lover', which was a delicious concoction of lemongrass vodka, cointreau, mint, cranberry and pineapple juices.
At the end of the meal, I made an interesting discovery. At the table next to me was seated a Thai couple and I noticed they seemed to have food that didn't appear on the English menu. Our server explained to me that this was the Thai menu - the Sukiyaki Hot Pot, where you choose from an array of ingredients and everyone at the table eats from all the dishes and soups together. Had I known that it existed, (or if I'd read it in Thai on the menu) I would have ordered that for a more 'authentic' meal. No matter as we weren't too late to order from the Thai dessert menu - banana fritters with ice cream and a lovely steamed bread with sweet coconut cream. I'm hanging out for May when honey mangoes come into season and I shall be walking down to Pinto's just for the 'Sticky Rice and Mango' which is again served with sweet coconut cream.
Acton's Pinto Thai Kitchen may not be found in the back streets of Bangkok, but it can proudly stand as a very good London substitute for good, honest home-cooked Thai food.
Our meal for three with starters, mains, drinks and dessert came to £58. And I even had enough left over for lunch the next day.
20 April 2011