Although admirable eateries have inched their way up Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn Heights' other commercial corridor, Montague Street, has remained an enduring anomaly—bordering the borough's poshest of neighborhoods with a succession of low-grade restaurants. Which is why even locals would be forgiven for neglecting to register a changing of the guard, on the subterranean space cornering Henry Street.
Having housed interchangeable Chinese takeout joints over the years, such as Vegetarian Ginger, 128 Dumpling House and Andy's, a perfunctory glance at the newest tenant, Pinto, suggests an innocuous Thai spot much of the same mold, offering stir-fried rice noodles and $9 lunches, priced to lure the courthouse crowds. Yet a longer look through the floor to ceiling windows—which cast light on potted herbs and rows of stenciled produce prints—infer that the chef is a familiar face at the greenmarket.
Drawing from his childhood growing up in Bangkok, a stage at Per Se, and a flair for the dramatic borne of a theatre background, Teerawong Nanthavatsiri (also known as Yo) has assembled a cast of regional specialties that are much more on par with Pok Pok than Lemongrass Grill. And his carefully considered presentations well befit the Instagram age: mini mason jars of dips (pork and tomato Nam Prik Ong, grilled chili Nam Prik Noom, and spicy fermented fish Jao Bong) are wreathed with colorful cornucopias of seasonal veggies, and non-functional, napkin-lined fryer baskets hold jumbles of fat, sesame-coated mushrooms.
As for that luminously orange-tinted staple, Thai iced tea, it's broken down to its component parts for DIY mixing—individual flasks hold sugar syrup, cream, and ceylon, which is also frozen into hibiscus-hued cubes. The Northern specialty, Kao Soi, has been turned on its head as well—instead of sloshy stew, chef Yo has reimagined it as a refined plated dish, serving half of a pan roasted organic Green Circle chicken with a nest of crispy egg noodles, and a jug of housemade yellow coconut curry.
Brooklyn Heights' wealth of prestige restaurants may remain grouped on Atlantic, but Pinto has provided a needed shot in the arm to Montague Street.
128 Montague St, (929) 337-7732, Brooklyn Heights
Photos by Jane Bruce
[This post appeared originally on www.bkmag.com]