Obviously, Asian takeout specialists occupy a crucial place in the American dining psyche. We've come to rely heavily on them for quick, cheap and easy meals that reassuringly provide comfort but also deliver enough exoticism so as to seem difficult or at the least cumbersome to actually make. On the downside, there's a pervasive soy-saucy sameness to much of those widely available and desired dishes.
Breaking that mold is a bold entree I love to order from Grandview's overachieving, undercharging and mysteriously named P.S. Thai Tai. PSTT has every moo-goo, war su, General Tso, Hunan, Szechuan and Happy Family thing you'd expect, but also some terrific Thai food.
From their especially interesting "Chef's Special" list, PSTT's menu offers fare flaunting more bodacious flavor flairs than even malapropisms - I'm talking about things like Pipa Tofu, Salt and Pepper Pork and, pertinently, the wonderful Sour Cabbage with Shrimp ($10).
The latter is unlike any other dish I know of in Columbus, and that includes its spectacular value as one of the best shrimp deals around. The easily-feeds-two thing is huge, packing in 20 or more decent shrimp. What adds to its status as really special is that it's a pickly powerhouse with explosive flavors and textures.
Flattering the medium-sized, clean-tasting crustaceans are dark green patches of pickled mustard greens plus chunks and chunks of delightfully tart (but not pucker-imparting) pale green pieces of crisp "sour cabbage."
Adding energy to the vegetal crunch and high-toned flavors are bits of ginger and a chili-delivered heat. It's really a knockout.
Eschewers of seafood can choose to substitute tofu in lieu of shrimp. Or they can just opt for another PSTT dish that I fancy and is a perennial white-board special there, Chicken with Asparagus ($7).
With that one, you'll still get fun textures and potent flavors, only they'll have a different profile. The crunch comes via its namesake green vegetable, sliced on the diagonal, plus clumps of cleavered carrots.
The punch comes from the deep, dark and salty notes derived from fermented black bean sauce and the near scaldingly hot presence of fierce red chili. A little but necessary background sweetness manages to both balance the flavors - which somehow never overwhelm the dish's stir-fried chicken and mushrooms - as well as bring them in focus.