Thai foods are known for their distinctive flavors, taste sensations and contrasting textures. In Atlanta, most Thai restaurants offer the same straightforward noodle and curry dishes, which seem to have their place for the typical American palate. But if one wants to experience the foods that Thai people eat in their homes and are sold by street vendors, don’t hesitate to go to Tuk Tuk Thai Food Loft. Dee Dee Niyomkul (daughter of Charlie and Nan Niyomkul of Nan/ Tamarind Seed Bistro) and her fiancé, Thaddeus Keefe have created an exotic get away of contrast and balance that teases the palate- hot and spicy, sweet and sour, pungent and fragrant. As a tribute to Dee Dee’s grandmother- a former Thai street vendor, the menu showcases the diversity of down-home Thai cooking.
One passes the Thai version of a yellow cab (tuk tuk) to ascend on an elevator, which represents climbing the tree of life to its canopy, the restaurant. The doors open to an elegant chic décor with an amazing view of the city- simply breathtaking. To forget the woes of the world down below, stop at the classy bar to regain your composure. The wine and cocktail list managed by Thaddeus offers some unique drinks. The Pink Lady is served in a sexy slender glass that’s filled with Russian Standard Platinum vodka, sake, lychee juice and topped with Domaine Chandon sparkling rosé. The thrill of sipping on the bubbles with the exotic sweet tastes of lychee is tantalizing, but my breath was taken away again with the OMG Black Mojito. It is not like any mojito I’ve ever tasted- Kraken Spiced Black Rum, mint leaves, cane sugar, and soda has an alluring chocolate–molasses undertone that finishes with a touch of vanilla- delicious!
The dining room takes the mind and body on a journey to the streets of Thailand. Large screens project wonderful images of regional Thai street food vendors. Separating the dining area from the kitchen is a Warhol-like wall made of various Thai snack canisters stacked in cubbies, a nice touch. Start the venture with Mieng Kum, a mound of ginger slivers, red onions, crunchy roasted peanuts, coconut, and lime that’s caramelized with palm sugar on a tender spinach leaf. This delicacy makes one realize this is a departure from the usual. Hanging on skewers made from the rickshaw-like vehicle (tuk tuk) are tasty morsels of grilled marinated pork and beef tenderloin whose flavors are indescribable. A sweet and sour tamarind chili sauce enhances these scrumptious tidbits. The beef jerky with coriander, Nuea Sawan, is like no other. This plate of chewy heavenly beef strips whose savory flavors have a hint of sweetness and salt that goes so well with the sticky rice that accompanies most dishes. Don’t miss it…
The noodle dishes are vastly different from those one encounters at other Thai eateries. The Keiw Tiew Neuan (Tom Yum) is a bowl of lip-smacking flavors that play on each other. At one moment you taste a rich beef broth that flashes to blissful cilantro flavors then comes the nutty character of the roasted peanuts- totally yummy! However, the noodle dish I wanted to take home is Ba Mee Moo Dang. The perfectly made egg noodles are graced with tender Thai style BBQ pork loin, scallions, cilantro, and yu choy- absolutely phenomenal.
The flavors really step-up with the Kao Moo Dang, pork made three ways- crispy, BBQ, and Thai sausage- served over the fragrant jasmine rice with a savory herb sauce. My breath got taken away for a third time with the Kra Pow Moo. It’s sautéed minced pork tossed with aromatic Thai basil topped with a perfectly fried egg whose yoke added a lush creaminess to the spicy pork, what contrast of flavors that blend perfectly.
The Thai culture is based on pleasure and harmony, and the off menu dessert (ask for it) of freshly cut mango with sticky rice lives up to those virtues. This upscale, yet laid-back eatery provides brilliant taste, color, and textures that seduce the senses. What perfect pleasures to enjoy with friends. If intriguing flavors in a whimsical setting is your thing, I assure you that Tuk Tuk will surely take your breath away as well. Sa-nook.
LGTG FRIENDLY ***** (Happy Relaxing Setting)
FOOD ***** (Ask For DeeDee’s Specials)
PRICE ***** (Plates to be Shared)
AMBIENCE ***** (Comfortable/ Outdoor Dining)
DRINKS **** (Sound Cocktail/ Wine List)