Senyai Thai Kitchen in Shadyside is in a league of its own.
Its menu features items not commonly found in local restaurants, the space seats only 15 people, and the layered ceiling is visually stunning.
Tu Wade opened the BYOB restaurant on April 12 at 5865 Ellsworth Ave. in the space below her spa, Miss T’s Beauty Lounge, which she has had for five years.
“My customers were telling me that I should open a restaurant. I love cooking and when someone eats what I make, I love it,” Ms. Wade says.
Appetizers go beyond skewered chicken satay and papaya salad. In koong makham, grilled shrimp is dressed with fried onions and a cooked-down sauce made with tamarind and palm sugar. Dainty-looking kra tongthong are pastry shells made with rice flour and coconut milk, and filled with minced mushrooms, carrots and peas or with chicken. Then there are the enoki mushrooms, which are crisp and served with peanuts and a sweet chili sauce.
In addition to the familiar red, green and massaman curries, Senyai offers a crab curry from central Thailand that is made with jumbo crab meat and kale cooked in a creamy yellow curry sauce. Pad medmamuang is a dry curry with organic chicken and cashew nuts, spiced with a roasted chili sauce.
Lemongrass blue tea and purple lemonade, which get their lovely hues from the butterfly pea flower, are a paragon of goodness on the beverage list — refreshing and not too sweet.
Although there are only six tables, tiny does not translate to cramped at Senyai, whose name means both privilege and big noodles in Thai. The space seems bigger because of the ceiling, which is designed by Dana Cupkova, who teaches architecture at Carnegie Mellon University, and Gretchen Craig. The slats in the ceiling appear as a continuous surface, mimicking a body of water.
Ms. Cupkova says she was inspired by the vaulted geometry of ancient Thai architecture. The texture pays homage to the restaurant’s name and is akin to a bowl of big noodles in broth, she says.
Wanting to incorporate a fresh idea in Senyai, Ms. Wade doesn’t have any contemplative Buddha statues or kitchy displays. Instead, the only decor items are framed images of the Grand Palace, rice fields and scenes from northern and southern Thailand.
Ms. Wade says she could not have opened Senyai without help from her husband, Gary, who took care of all of the paperwork. She has been juggling her time between upstairs and downstairs and working seven days a week since the restaurant opened.
“I hope I’ll have a day off someday,” she says, taking it all in a stride.
Arthi Subramaniam: email@example.com, 412-263-1494 or on Twitter @arthisub.
First Published April 21, 2017 3:54 PM