After fire, a Mount Vernon mainstay moves to Little Italy

Baltimore is not known as a hotbed of Thai cuisine, so when one choice outlet is lost, it reverberates throughout the community. Such was the case with Mount Vernon's My Thai, which was destroyed by a 2010 fire. But like the lead character in a foodie drama, the restaurant is getting a second chance, reopening in the Holland Tack Factory building, next to Heavy Seas Alehouse in Little Italy. My Thai (1300 Bank St., [410] 327-0023, still faces the daunting task of re-establishing itself as a go-to place for Thai food in the city, but if the meal we had there was any indication, they are off to a good start.

The restaurant that used to be Lemongrass has been stripped of all decorations and giant Buddha statues. My Thai takes a minimalist approach to the room and lets the space speak for itself, with industrial design and a gorgeous 40-foot bar. The back room is large and features large communal tables; the front contains smaller tables as well as a new grill bar that features a revolving menu of Thai street foods. It was there that our meal began.

Grilled beef tongue ($7) was a good starter. Charred and skewered slices of tongue were propped up over a grilled rice ball sitting on top of a mango salad, chives, and a ginger and garlic soy sauce reduction. The meat was seasoned and grilled properly but a bit chewy. The rice was a delicious surprise: It was as if they sliced a puck of congee (rice porridge) and fried it on both sides until crisp. It mixed wonderfully with the meat and the salad underneath. Chicken livers ($6) were fried with a crunchy batter but came out slightly overdone. The baby bok choy with sweet soy beans and oyster sauce made up for the mistake and kept us coming back until the plate was empty. The crispy green beans ($6) owed their crunch to a light tempura batter that didn't overwhelm the green beans and kept the dish from becoming heavy or oily. The sweet black pepper sauce accented the beans well.

The drinks at My Thai, while not particularly Thai in nature, complemented the cuisine and showed a sophistication missing from many cocktail lists. The "Legally Yours" ($8) was a mix of absinthe, apple vodka, sour-apple liqueur, and cava. The anise flavor peeked through a sour haze which was lightened up by the cava at the end. The lovely green and cloudy appearance of the drink gives the drinker the impression that they're drinking a potion. The "Eye Opener" ($8) was refreshing and sweet, a combination of whiskey, honey, cucumber liquor, and muddled basil. The drink was balanced, with none of its ingredients overpowering each other.

After the street-food station, the menu hewed more closely to dishes traditionally found in American Thai outlets but was nevertheless well-executed. The tom ka gai ($5), or coconut chicken soup, was delightfully pungent, full of vegetables and chicken, and lemony, with coconut milk to take the edge off. The My Thai noodle bowl ($7) contained a good amount of roasted duck meat and Chinese broccoli situated between rice noodles and a sweet and meaty broth. It was ruined only when I decided to be a hero with the jars of various chili preparations brought to the table at the start of the meal. Luckily I was 75 percent finished before I accidentally made the dish a sadistic hell-broth of duck and chilies. The duck curry ($14), like most of the dishes at My Thai, can have its spice/heat level adjusted to taste. Gun-shy after the chili experience, we ordered ours medium and it was still plenty spicy. The red curry and coconut milk broth intertwined with the duck, pineapple, tomato, and peas to create an exotic mashup. The heat level built up to a sinus-clearing crescendo by the end, but it was a bearable burn.

Dessert was coconut custard with sticky rice ($5). The thick slice of coconut custard was rich, creamy, and full of coconut flavor. The rice it was served with added a texture change but otherwise just interfered with great custard. Like the proverbial phoenix, My Thai has made its way out of the ashes to become bigger and at least as good as the previous incarnation. Given how recently it reopened, it has the potential to become much, much better.

My Thai is open Sunday to Thursday 11:30 A.M. to 10:00 P.M., and Friday and Saturday 11:30 A.M. to midnight.

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