Not to be confused with other outposts of pink (see: Berry, Taco), Pink Noodle in Hillcrest is the face-lifted Thai restaurant formerly known as Kitima. It's undergone a menu overhaul and a redecorating scheme that's fun and bright and girly, though not particularly sophisticated. In the words of my ever-astute husband, “It looks like it's been decorated by 10-year-old you.” I wouldn't be that harsh, but there are indeed a lot of cutesy details and swirly hearts and dots painted everywhere. I find the bright and friendly vibe endearing, and, more important than craft-fair-chic bathroom accessories in the heart of fabulousness, I like the food.There's nothing outrageously different on Pink Noodle's menu—you'll find a well-balanced selection of traditional Thai items.
Most restaurants crank out crispy twists of wonton that lack flavor and personality and call them Crab Rangoon— although how you can go wrong with deep-fried crab and cream cheese is beyond me. (I find most places overload their versions with more cream than crab.) Pink Noodle has a much more polished version that its calls Krispy Crab. The appetizer arrives looking like a pile of crisp cigarillos—tubular rollups filled with all the expected players. The balance of ingredients and seasonings, however, nails what other places don't seem willing to invest the time in. Instead of shreds of crab that are barely there, each bite had small-but-meaty chunks, with just a bit of cream cheese binding the whole thing together without being overpowering. And with occasional bits of onion and corn elbowing their way into each bite, our plate of Krispy Crab was quickly devoured.
The Pink Lady Noodles are a creamy confection (not to mention a pretty shade of pink) with an unexpected, but not unwelcome, bit of heat balancing out the sweetness of the coconut-milk sauce smothering the noodles. My first Pink Noodle experience was noshing on these decadent squiggles after grabbing them to-go one afternoon. Pink Noodle took the time with a small, yet much appreciated, takeout detail: The noodles came nestled in a little walled boat of aluminum foil, shoring up the chopstick-licking sauce so it didn't leak out of the takeout container.
Don't miss the beef saté, a dish dressed in an earthy curry that's both rich and gentle. The sauce is peanut-butter sweet, but heavy with spices, and lingers on your tongue with a buttery finish. I was there during an empty weekday for a late lunch and it took all of my self-control to not rationalize that it would be perfectly acceptable to pick up the plate and lick it like a crazed honey badger.
I think what continues to intrigue me about Thai food in particular is how the core flavorings of a Thai kitchen (lime, chilies, garlic, etc.) continually elevate the workhorse combo of meat, noodles and veggies. This is wonderfully evident in the Pad Woon-Sen. The tangled pile of vermicelli noodles are lightly fried for just a hint of caramelization and come dotted with chunks of chicken and fresh vegetables. I find it charming that the good folks behind the food at Pink Noodle don't try to get all fancy with the description of ingredients; the menu just says the whole concoction is “sprinkled with chef's magic spices.”
The staff at Pink Noodle were earnest and eager and took the time to share their favorite dishes or enthuse over the house-made coconut ice cream. The restaurant's brightly striped awning should catch your eye when you're cruising down University Avenue, and the food should capture your appetite and keep you coming back.