For months, friends had been asking if I had been to Nitally’s Thai-Mex Cuisine yet. They all pretty much said the same thing. “It’s Thai and Mexican together and really good!” Thai and Mexican? That just sounded like the weirdest combo ever. Finally, they tired of asking me the same question over and over and just made a reservation. Nitally’s is in the Grand Central District across from the Queens Head in an unassuming, small corner building.
The inside is small and charming, with a color combo that evokes hints of both cultures. The dining room seats about 30 at the most. We were greeted immediately by friendly staff, seated right away, drink orders were taken and we were given menus.
Alright, how bad can it be when everyone seems to like it, right? I truly could not fathom the flavors working together. “Open-minded. Be open-minded,” I said to myself. I took a look at the menu. Chorizo Fried Rice ($9.99). Seriously? Panang Curry with Mole and Shrimp ($12.99). That’s two of my favorite sauce combinations in the world put together in one dish. Okay, so I tried some of the appetizers including the Chicken Satay ($6.50) and Tom Kha Soup (Coconut Soup) ($8.99). We also ordered a Panang Burrito ($9.99), a Chicken Taco ($9.99) and Ghang Cua Sap Pa Ros (Red Curry and Pineapple) with tofu added ($10.99).
The Satay was exactly what you would expect. Marinated chicken in Thai spices grilled on bamboo sticks and served with a slightly spicy peanut sauce. The chicken was tender and the sauce was not overly sweet as some peanut sauces can be. Score one for Nitally’s, but of course this was not one of the fusion dishes. The Tom Kha Soup came (also not fusion) and completely knocked me out. It was one of those moments when you taste an absolute perfect marriage of flavors in a dish. The soup had a coconut base, of course, and was complimented by lemon grass, Kaffir lime leaves, Thai chili, galangal (a root similar to ginger with a peppery flavor) and straw mushrooms topped with scallions and cilantro. If I could eat this soup every day, I would. I felt this soup would be something I would really crave when feeling unwell. I could go on about this, but then the Chorizo Fried Rice came.
It was not the prettiest dish. Finely chopped chorizo stir fried with rice made it look like one of those Dirty Rice dishes they serve in New Orleans, however they dressed it up beautifully on a red plate with a lovely orchid. This was my first foray into the fusion part of the menu. The traditional fried rice flavors with the chorizo really worked! My first bite was tentative, and then I could not stop eating it. It seemed to be a crowd favorite, as well.
The Panang Curry with Mole and the Red Curry with Pineapple were served right next to each other. The curry without the mole looked like a typical Thai curry. It was tasty and I didn’t think the medium spice level was too “over the top” spicy. The pineapple made it a little sweet for me, although the contrast with the spiciness made it work. The curry with the mole was completely different. It was a richer orange/red color and the consistency was a little thicker. The spice of the curry with the deep background of mole gave it a fantastic complex flavor. All the curries were served with fragrant Jasmine rice.
There was a slight problem with the taco and burrito dishes. For some reason, they both came out a bit soggy and broke apart when eaten. The flavors inside the tortillas were tasty. The sogginess was a bit disappointing.
A few words about the service: This is not Bern’s or Marchand’s and it is not going to have the same kind of service. The serving staff were friendly and helpful, but this is a small restaurant with an even smaller kitchen. The kitchen was a little overwhelmed with the amount of people in the restaurant at dinner so our dishes did not all come out at the same time. It happens in smaller restaurants. Have a beverage and relax and take into consideration that it’s not a chain, it’s a small family-run business which is part of the charm of living here in St. Pete. The flavors in these dishes are worth the wait.
Nitally’s is located at 2465 Central Avenue in the Grand Central District of downtown St. Petersburg. They are open Tuesday through Friday from 11:00 am to 1:30 pm and from 5:30 to 9 pm. On Saturdays they are open from 5:30 to 9 pm. You may wish to call for reservations for dinner 727-321-THAI.