Pin Kaow isn’t our favorite Thai in town. In fact, it probably doesn’t even make our top five. But it’s been around for fifteen+ years and is very popular with Northwesterners and other Summerlin-like folk on that side of town. They recently opened two other branches — at South Rainbow and Robindale, and Eastern at I-215 — with identical menus, so we dropped in for the first time in a long time. FYI: Back in the day, when ELV was young, virile, voted Democratic, and often mistaken for any one of these guys, we were regulars.
Not much has changed on the menu, that still features the generic, best-hits dishes of Thai cooking, all competently prepared. But the original space has expanded, and the decor has definitely been updated. It’s much more comfortable than it used to be (ELV remembers bare bones tables and chairs back in the mid 90′s), but remains bright and cheery, as are the people working there. Then again, we’ve never been in a Thai restaurant where the staff was anything but.
They dial the spices up or down, upon request, on a 10-point scale…although we’ve never figured out how any cook (Thai or otherwise) can determine such fine gradations of spiciness (e.g. a # 4 level of heat versus a # 5, or a 7 versus an 8). Many Thai restaurants do this (Thai Spice on Flamingo is another one), but we doubt that, in the history of the world (or at least in the history of the world of Thai restaurants in America), any diner has ever exclaimed: “Whew…I’m sure glad they made this dish a 6 instead of a 7…. I just can’t take a 7!”
ELV suspects Thai restaurants doing this are full of cooks laughing at us gullible Americans. ELV also suspects there are really only four levels of prig kee nu-induced heat: 1) round-eye, gringo-friendly, i.e. barely hot at all; 2) medium spicy heat for pasty-faced gaijin like the staff at ELV — converts to Thai cooking who seem to enjoy a little pain with their pleasure; 3) slightly hotter still for macho food freaks who like to go native, and don’t mind having their palates torched; and finally, 4) heat-induced flaming sphincter burn for ex-pats and immigrants who miss their homeland. ELV doubts if anyone eats Thai food at this level of spiciness unless they were raised on it. And we can’t imagine how impervious to pain their anuses must be.
PIN KAOW THAI RESTAURANT
1974 North Rainbow Blvd.
Las Vegas, NV 89108