A couple of months ago, I started seeing the photos. They’d pop up on my Instagram and Facebook feeds, beckoning with the promise of my Next Great Meal: big bowls of broth bobbing with meatballs, piles of bouncy noodles and bright green leafy vegetables. Where was this place? I wondered. But also: It’s 95 degrees outside. Do I really want soup?
Patti’s Kitchen, which opened quietly in July, sits on the corner of a strip mall on a stretch of Park Boulevard N in Pinellas Park. Curious and unable to satisfy my noodle cravings for a minute longer, I ventured out to the restaurant in August. Driving in a car that had been sitting in my driveway all day long in what felt like 100-degree temps to pick up a steaming bowl of soup was an interesting experience.
It was also completely worth it.
Sithisak “Pooh” Wongasawanuek and his wife, Phonphen “Patti” Kanjanakrairoek, opened their small, casual restaurant as an homage to the street noodles of Bangkok. Kanjanakrairoek, 40, is originally from Thailand’s capital city while Wongasawanuek, 33, is from Chiang Mai, up in the northern highlands of the country. Though the cuisines in both regions are rich and varied, it’s the street food stalls selling spicy bowls of noodle soup that piqued the couple’s interest.
For the past couple of years, the couple ran a small catering operation and tested out recipes, waiting for the perfect opportunity to open their own shop. They settled on the Pinellas Park location, in part, because of the area’s robust Asian population.
The noodle dishes are the highlight, and they deserve every ounce of the spotlight. Despite what might seem like a uniform genre at first glance, each bowl is unique, carrying intricate and complex flavors. It’s a petite menu, and a different rotating specialty is featured each week. In general, the kitchen strays from overly conventional or Americanized takes on the cuisine (although pad Thai is in the mix).
To start, it’s hard to go wrong with the flaky Thai curry puffs paired with a light and refreshing cucumber salad ($6.50). These pack a warming mix of curried ground chicken, potatoes and onion, not unlike an Indian samosa. But instead of getting deep-fried they are wrapped in a flaky, buttery dough that has more in common with puff pastry or French pate chaud.
The restaurant’s signature noodle soup tiew nam tok ($10.50), sometimes called boat noodles, features a thick, viscous pork broth that packs a blend of 10 different spices and is heavy with the flavors of cinnamon, cloves and star anise. The soup comes topped with thick strips of marinated pork, pork meatballs and water spinach, while crispy pork rinds and fried garlic provide a welcome crunch.
On the other end of the spectrum, the tom yum noodle soup ($10.50) is light, bright and sour — a spicy and pucker-inducing broth flavored with fish sauce and lime juice. The dish gets its heft from ground pork and a shower of ground peanuts, two fat shrimp that arrived perched on top and a healthy handful of fresh bean sprouts.
Guests can choose from a number of different noodles, depending on their preference, including vermicelli noodles, thin and wide rice noodles and egg noodles. Spice is doled out liberally using a four-level heat index ranging from mild to Thai hot. I dialed it up to “hot” but not Thai hot, and it was plenty spicy for this spice fiend.
One of my favorite dishes here is the rich duck noodle soup ($12.50), also called tiew ped toon, which arrives with a flavorful dark amber duck broth poured over chewy egg noodles, thick slices of steamed duck, crunchy Chinese broccoli, celery leaves and cilantro. The soup carries a warming, bucolic charm, and feels like something you want to curl up with on a rainy day.
It’s not all cold-weather fodder. The ba mee moo dang ($10.50) is a brothless bowl featuring a jumble of egg noodles topped with homemade barbecue pork, yu choy (a type of Chinese greens) and fried garlic.
For now, there are just two desserts on the menu: flaky Thai cream puffs ($5.50) and coconut cream cake ($5.50). The latter has a light texture similar to angel food cake and arrives topped with a not-too-sweet coconut milk glaze thickened with strips of fresh coconut.
Though still very new, the dishes at Patti’s Kitchen already feel polished and fine-tuned. Wongasawanuek said they might expand on the menu in the future, but that the noodle dishes will remain the restaurant’s focus. That seems just as well. Noodles feel appropriate for all seasons.
If you go
Where: 6527 Park Blvd., Pinellas Park; (727) 289-4153; instagram.com/pattiskitchenthai
Hours: Lunch and dinner, 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 4:30-9 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, noon-9 p.m. Saturday, noon-8 p.m. Sunday.
Prices: Appetizers $6.50 to $9.50; noodles $10.50 to $12.50; larger dishes $11.50 to $13.50.
Don’t skip: Thai curry puffs, duck noodle soup (tiew ped toon)
Dine in: The restaurant features a small selection of tables inside, but no outside seating.
Take out: Diners can order by phone and pick up takeout orders at the restaurant. Delivery is currently not offered.