Shattuck Avenue is home to plenty of popular restaurants that students frequent. Situated just a few doors down from the bustling Angeline’s Louisiana Kitchen is another restaurant that markets itself as a kitchen: Plearn Thai Kitchen. This restaurant, popular among the student population, is a small and cozy place that serves an array of Thai dishes.
Plearn’s menu is pretty balanced in terms of vegetarian and nonvegetarian food, although it does not boast a variety of vegan options. One of the best things on the menu is the tom kha gai soup, which can be either regular or vegetarian, depending on whether you order chicken or vegetables in a coconut broth with mushrooms, lime juice and blue ginger, costs about $9. It is served pretty hot but not too hot that it would burn your tongue, and it has the illusion of being spicy, when it is really just tangy, so even those who aren’t the biggest fans of spicy food could enjoy it. The only bad thing about the dish is that it comes in a very, very large bowl, so big that once it is served, you might wish you hadn’t ordered an appetizer to accompany it.
One of the standard but delicious appetizers are the spring rolls, stuffed with tofu, cabbage, carrot and crystal bean thread noodles, that cost $6. The spring rolls are thin and crispy rice paper spring rolls, and they are served with sweet and sour sauce on the side, which blends well with the ingredients and enhances their flavor. However, compared to the other items on the menu, the spring rolls don’t really take your taste buds out of this world. Nevertheless, they taste good and are rather filling — but not too filling that you wouldn’t have space for a main dish.
Another great main dish on the menu is the Pat Thai (known as Pad Thai in other restaurants). Made from rice noodles, chicken, shrimp, eggs, onions and bean sprouts, this pan-fried dish comes in a much smaller serving than the soup, which is paradoxical considering it’s a main dish. The Pat Thai is delicious and costs about the same as the soup. The overall flavor of the dish is pretty standard, with no exotic kicks or tangs, but the tables at the restaurant are decorated with an array of sauces and sides that allow you to customize the dish to your taste buds.
Although many seem to be enamored by Plearn Thai, there are some who completely hate it. These people claim there are other Thai restaurants in town that trump it in authenticity, flavor, freshness and convenience, considering that Plearn is quite a small establishment and only accepts cash.
However, those who love Plearn love it for its homey and intimate atmosphere that makes it a great place to get together with close friends. You might not always get a table at Thai Basil, another cash-only Thai restaurant in Berkeley. Plearn is also a good place to enjoy a meal that caters to a variety of tastes for both vegetarians and nonvegetarians, while still having a reasonable price point and good service. The service is extremely friendly, and should you have any special requests — like making a dish vegetarian — the staff is more than happy to accommodate.