BROOKLYN HEIGHTS, Brooklyn -- Pinto refers to a kind of lunch box in Thai, kind of like a Japanese bento box. But the food served at Pinto is a little more gourmet than what you'd put in a lunch box.
Pinto is nestled on a brightly lit corner at 128 Montague Street right in the heart of Brooklyn Heights.
Unless you know Pinto refers to a lunch box in Thai, you might not know that this is a Thai restaurant.
"The way we decorated the restaurant is not screaming very, very Thai restaurant. I just wanted to have a very comfy, sit-down dinner that you can have casual, easy to eat with the family to enjoy," said chef and owner Teerawong Nanthavatsiri, who goes by 'Yo'.
He opened his first Pinto ten years ago in the West Village. But he'd come to New York from Bangkok to study theater. His dream of directing was supplanted by food.
"Since I don't have my own theater, the restaurant is my theater," he said. "It's my show. I come in to cook everyday for guests who come in to see my show, which is the food."
And most of his dishes have a bit of a theatrical twist. You can find traditional Pad Thai here, but there's also a crispy version.
Mushrooms replace banana in a crunchy appetizer. Crispy chicken with five seeds ramps up a traditional chicken with cashews.
Khao Soi chicken is pan roasted instead of steamed.
The ice cubes for the Thai iced tea are made with tea, and the crab fried rice is served in a young coconut.
Chef Yo first toasts that coconut, then he scrambles eggs with crab meat and already steamed jasmine rice, along with oyster sauce, fish sauce, scallions, salt and sugar.
That goes into the coconut, which is topped with eggs scrambled with more crab meat.
Tip it all out on a plate and scoop out some of the coconut meat.
"Once you see the face of the guests smiling and they're fulfilled with the service, they're fulfilled with the food, that makes you happy and at the end it's fun," said Chef Yo.
Recipe for Crab Fried Rice in young coconut
1 cup cooked jasmine Rice
2 cups crab meat
4 fresh eggs
2T oyster sauce
1t premium fish sauce
2 pinches of salt
1 pinch of sugar
1 whole young coconut
1 chopped scallion
cup cooking oil
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
On stove top, turn on burner and place fresh young coconut (already with top sheared off) over the flame to toast it. Once slighted toasted on outside and slightly on inside remove from flame.
In a wok or large pan, heat half of the oil and scramble two eggs, adding half of the crab meat. Cook for 1-2 minutes then add the rice. Toss a couple of times and add all seasoning, except only half of the salt. Toss in scallions. Remove from pan and fill the coconut with this rice.
Place inside the coconut and place in oven to finish cooking for 3-5 minutes.
In same pan, add remaining oil. Scramble remaining two eggs and toss in remaining crab meat and salt. Cook for about 2-3 minutes.
Remove coconut from oven and place this scrambled egg with crab meat on top. Serves 1
Neighborhood Eats: Thai cuisine at Pinto in Brooklyn Heights