Restaurant Review: A Good Gateway Restaurant, Thai Yum

Tirto Restaurant Soup

A dish from Thai Yum. (Photo: Michelle Tirto).

By Michelle Tirto
Staff Writer

My friend and I only ate at Thai Yum, a restaurant in Federal Hill, because of an unfortunate accident. We had trekked far for a supposedly amazing Middle Eastern restaurant, only to discover that on the eve of Thanksgiving it was closed. Starving, we doubled back until we found Thai Yum, the lone open restaurant that cold, gusty night.

The minute we entered, steam clouded our glasses; the pungent smell of mint and curry tingled our noses; and the cook, working her magic in an entirely open and transparent kitchen, smiled and said, “Hello, how are you?” The restaurant was small and lively, as the only other customers were part of one large obnoxious hipster party loudly talking to each other in the back. My friend and I sat as far away as possible, and while waiting for the menu we admired the intricate Thai paintings and sculptures adorning the pleasingly off-white walls.

I judge Thai restaurants on how they make their Tom Yum soup. It’s supposed to be spicy in a strong, heartily flavorful way, and I’ve found the best soups tend to be vibrantly crimson and amber due to thick dollops of lemongrass and coconut. Thai Yum’s soup, on the other hand, was brown and translucent. It was tangy, but not the fearsome concoction that I wanted. Much better was my friend’s chicken appetizer, soft and oh so savory, half of which I devoured when she was in the bathroom. My main course, Pad Pao Tag, an mélange of seafood in red chili paste, was also a treat to eat. The sheer variety of seafood (Scallops! Shrimp! Squid! Mussels!) was exciting enough compared to what I usually get in Pearlstone. That welcome change, however, probably made me appreciate the dish far more than it deserved. Despite the dish having two chili pepper symbols on the menu, it was only spicy enough to lightly buzz my tongue.

Thai Yum is a great starter restaurant to bring friends who’ve never had Thai food before. The food is recognizably and adequately Thai. But I’ve had Thai food before, and I know that every dish should leave me drenched in sweat and gagging on the floor from flavors as intense and powerful as galaxies colliding. I left Thai Yum physically full, but still starving for a kick of coconut.



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