Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Tuk Tuk Thai Food Loft




1745 Peachtree Rd. Atlanta, GA www.tuktukatl.com

Last night my friend Valerie and I had dinner at Tuk Tuk, located in Brookwood Place on Peachtree in Buckhead. The restaurant occupies the space previously taken by Taurus, above the Viking store. (There's elevator access to the upper level.) I'd never been there before, but I knew Tuk Tuk was owned and operated by Dee Dee Niyomkul, daughter of the creators of the delicious, nearby swanky Thai restaurant Nana. With that legacy, I figured there must be some great food in store for me at Tuk Tuk.

So is Tuk Tuk on par with the grand Nan? Hmmm. No. But I want to immediately qualify that negative with a few notes:

Tuk Tuk is about half the price of Nan. Whereas I spent $26 on my entree last time I dined at Nan, I only spent $13 at Tuk Tuk, and $13 is on the high range of their menu. Tuk Tuk is doable on a regular basis/budget, while Nan is more of a special occasion or first date place.

Most of the dishes at Tuk Tuk seem simpler than the ones served at Nan. Take for example my dinner entree, Kow Mun Kai. This is steamed chicken with ginger, galanga and garlic rice topped with black bean chili sauce served with chicken consomme'.
Tuk Tuk's dishes aren't like those served at typical Atlanta Thai restaurants - they are about half that size. I got about 6 thin slices of chicken, very simply steamed, with a little ginger, about a cup of rice (noticeably garlic), a small condiment bowl of the black soy bean chili sauce, with another slightly larger bowl of the consomme. Our server encouraged me to try some of the soup by itself first, then pour a little onto the chicken. What excellent advice - the consomme' alone was top notch, and definitely added another layer of flavor to the chicken and rice. While I thought the chicken itself was too bland, I was happy with the sauces and sticky rice.

Other simple but pleasing dishes are the Pad Mee (sauteed vermicelli rice noodles with mushrooms, sprouts, scallions and egg), curries with your choice of beef, chicken, pork or shrimp, and Tom Yum Koong (traditional lemongrass soup with shrimp). These are dishes you will see at every Thai restaurant, in any city. Tuk Tuk also has some interesting, different items though, including lots of the small plates, which range from $7 - $9. The next time I eat at Tuk Tuk I'm planning to order the Kao Pad Goong Chiang, which is fried rice with diced Thai sausage, eggs, onions and Chinese broccoli ($13). We've all had fried rice umpteen times in our lives by adulthood, but not with Thai sausage. Sounds yummy.

Valerie ordered the Kanom jeen khew whan, which is basically green curry chicken with steamed rice noodles instead of just rice ($14). I tasted it and liked it, although I didn't find it as spicy as I might expect. I like my green curry with a distinct kick, and I didn't find it here. Still, the eggplant and bamboo shoots were tender, and the green curry sauce was good. Not as good as at Chaba Thai, but those of us ITP also don't have to go all the way out to Duluth for it, either.

Tuk Tuk has a very nice interior, with lots of black and white decor, boxes of Thai crackers and cookies adorning one wall, a spacious dining room, little lights that dangle from the ceiling and give the place a nice ambiance as the evening progresses. Our server, Gus, was great. He made good suggestions from the menu, smiled continuously and saw to our needs.

He did something else really cool - made me a Bangkok snow cone ($6). You read that right - Tuk Tuk has a cute, old fashioned snow cone stand where your server will create a huge snow cone (actually, it's in a bowl) just for you. The ice is topped with sweetened condensed milk and colorful rosewater, while a bevy of Thai dessert staples awaits you at the bottom: red beans, lychees, lotus and palm seeds. It may sound strange, but it was quite pleasant. Big enough for a small family to share, and not insanely sweet.

So, it's not as romantic or suave as Nan, and the menu isn't as complex or well cultivated. However, it's about half the price and you'll leave satisfied, especially if you're looking for a more fun, casual atmosphere.

Verdict: It's got that something special . . .

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