How this Burlington restaurant is giving Toronto's Thai food scene a run for its money
Pintoh Cuisine is located at 399 Elizabeth St., Unit 1-3 in Burlington
It is my experience that when it comes to Thai cuisine in the GTA, the majority of the standout restaurants are located in downtown Toronto.
This is largely thanks to chefs like Nuit Regular, who is known for restaurants like Pai and Kiin.
When you venture outside to the suburbs, there are some memorable places, but nothing that exhibits the fervour of downtown restaurants. Thai cuisine is more than heaping bowls of phud thai and creamy curries; there's a world of spice-laden street food and vibrantly fresh salads and bowls of stir fry.
I first heard of chef Chutichai Singhakraipon of Pintoh Cuisine through a friend of mine from Niagara.
She touted that the Burlington-based chef, lovingly referred to as "Chef Keng" by his peers, is her go-to for when she wants great Thai food, but would prefer not to drive into Toronto.
It was even recommended to me by a small group of migrant workers in Niagara's wine country who make the trek to downtown Burlington. They describe it as "authentic Thai taste."
While the restaurant is located on Lakeshore Road, the main lakeside artery in the city, it's easy to miss.
Also, nothing about the commercial, generic looking façade will give you any indication as to how good the food is here.
"We have a loyal following, but not many people know about us," Singhakrajpon said.
One of his signature dishes is the som tu platter.
Chef Keng has riffed on the classic green papaya salad by creating his own platter.
With a large mortar and pestle he aggressively chomps down on julienne green papaya, carrots, green beans and tomatoes. He then adds tamarind dressing and shrimp paste. After a few minutes of chomping, he dresses the mix on a bed of cold rice noodles and adds some shrimp crackers.
Back in Thailand, you can find som tom anywhere and everywhere. Pintoh's version is beautifully funky from the shrimp paste, and the sour and sweet notes sing along with the crunch. There's a formidable amount of heat, but its cooled by the rice noodles. Get this to share.
The 35-year-old chef was born and raised in Phuket, and he credits his interest in cooking to his mother.
"My family had a restaurant in Phuket, which is where I learned everything. Everything is from my mom and my grandma."
Phuket is a well-known destination for tourists. It is widely regarded as the party capital of South East Asia. There are hundreds of bars and clubs sprawling across some of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen. But peel away from the nightlife and there's some tasty cuisine to be had.
"Phuket has great street food. I wanted to show case some of this, like the pad kra pao," said Singhakrajpon.
The pad kra pao is a must when you visit Pintoh.
A simple stir fry of meat (ask for pork or duck), chillies, onions, vegetables all tossed together in a large hot wok with fistfuls of holy basil.
After a few quick tosses, it's served on top of jasmine rice and finished with a fried egg on top.
I have had many bowls of pad kra pao from Chiang Mai to Phuket, Chef Keng's version is addictive.
Crack the egg yolk, mix it in and you'll get a blissful mix of spice, sour, creamy and lemon notes.
It's a spicy dish, but it immediately forces you back in for seconds and thirds.