My Thai's first run wasn't very long — just over three years — but its good, clean Thai food found a following. When its first home was destroyed by a fire in December 2010, we wondered when and where the owners, Varattaya "Pui" and Brad Wales, would return.
My Thai is back, and it's got a few things extra.
Now located in the Tack Factory, on the edge of Little Italy, My Thai has almost twice as much floor space to work with as it did when it occupied the basement level of Mount Vernon's Park Plaza Building. It occupies a big industrial space that just keeps going back and back, from the long front entrance bar to the semi-open kitchen.
For the most part, the new My Thai is serving the same reasonably priced menu of appealing Thai fare that it had back in Mount Vernon. For their comeback, the Waleses have brought on their son, Jirat Suphrom-In, both to help infuse the restaurant with a little youth culture and to superintend the restaurant's most intriguing addition, the My Thai Grill Bar menu.
When we visited, the menu was offering approachable treats like hot chicken wings and grilled meatballs but a couple of doozies, too — flash-fried chicken livers with baby bok choy and grilled beef tongue with a spicy mango salad and chives.
The plates we ordered were terrific. The crispy chicken wings, in a not overly sweet chili sauce, were accompanied by long, nearly translucent strips of daikon radish, a very pretty effect. The wings themselves were meaty and tasty, thoroughly decent. But the other dishes were little revelations.
I loved the composition of the fried liver and three heads of baby bok choy, with a yellow flower petal perched on top and a sprinkling of sweet soy beans on the oyster sauce below. The silkiness of the bok choy balanced the denseness of the liver, and the combination made you notice the dusky flavors they have in common. Tender and sharply spicy, the marinated beef tongue was served on skewers that were crossed on top of a fried-rice cake, a meltingly good one, and accompanied by a bold brown sauce.
The idea of offering a small exotic menu of fare inspired by street food was his father's, Suphrom-In told me. Good for Dad, and good for whoever spruced up the formerly sweet cocktail menu with ingredients like Thai honey and muddled basil. Make sure to ask about the homemade infusions the bar staff is experimenting with. These concoctions were so new when we visited, they didn't yet have official names.
You could pass on the Grill Bar menu and go directly into the conventional menu, but I'd love to see some support for My Thai's efforts here. The more people respond, the more emboldened My Thai will get. Our willingness was noted, and rewarded. Suphrom-In brought our table a dish of fried silkworms. Silkworms are very tasty. Just think of them as edamame, or corn nuts, with stripes.
The big industrial space provides a handsome neutral backdrop for Pei Wales' cooking, which has consistent pop, both visually and on the tongue. This is true of the standards, like a vegetarian panang curry with deep-rounded flavors and a dish of drunken noodles with a pepper jolt and presence of real basil.
But for some drama, look for the dishes listed under the "Entrees" heading, which tend to be more complex and show off Pui Wales' personal tastes. The crispy duck ka pow, outfitted with Thai peppers, garlic and Thai basil, showcased the confident spicing that elevates one Thai dish above the rest. A seafood dish named pad pao tag presented fresh and firm squid, scallops, shrimp and mussels in an aromatic sauce flavored with lemongrass, green peppercorns and wild ginger.
And although Thai cuisine isn't known for its desserts, you shouldn't pass up the coconut custard pie, served with sweet sticky rice.
My Thai is working hard to inhabit its stylish new space, which is comfortable, upbeat and welcoming. Pretty details like fresh flower blossoms and tea candles help soften the hard edges. There's some lingering uncertainty about how different rooms are to function, particularly the front space, which comprises the bar, a dining area and the Grill Bar itself.
The service, which is good-natured, should be more confident, too.
It doesn't feel like home yet, but it will soon. The new My Thai is a happy beginning.
Where: 1300 Bank St., 410-327-0023
Contact: 410-327-0023, mythai.com
Open: Lunch and dinner daily
Prices: Appetizers $6-$8; entrees $12-$17
Food: Traditional Thai restaurant fare
Service: The largely Thai-speaking staff is attentive but there is the occasional language barrier.
Best dishes: Pad pao tag, crispy duck ko pow, flash-fried chicken livers
Parking: Metered street parking and nearby garages
Children: Children who like Thai food will find plenty of options.
Noise level: Comfortable but the music verges on the clubby.
[Key: Superlative: *****; Excellent: ****; Very Good: ***; Good: **; Promising: *]