In my position as Mystery Diner, I frequently am confronted by situations which are truly puzzling. Some can be explained with a bit of pondering. Then there are those that are unexplainable, no matter how much brain power that gets applied.

Take Suite 100 at 2203 McKinley Road in Johnson City for instance. Over the past three years, there have been several restaurants to occupy this space in what was the former Burlington Industries property. The space is unique, in that there is dining space on a front porch patio located to one side of the kitchen area, and an inside dining area that exudes the aura and feel of a sidewalk café.

Within its walls, my friends the dine-around bunch and I have partaken of various and different cuisines. Turkish/Aegean, Cajun, Creole, and Middle Eastern have tickled our taste buds there.

Yet for some reason, it isn’t long before the tenant of the moment in Suite 100 either goes out of business or packs up and moves everything to a different location, leaving the space once again unoccupied and looking somewhat forlorn.

However, hope springs eternal. There is a new tenant occupying Suite 100 at present that looks to be a “keeper.” Pinto Sushi Thai Kitchen is the name above the door. Walk through that door and you will find, as my dining partner and I did, something special.

First impressions

Recently, my dining partner and I stopped by Pinto Sushi Thai Kitchen for an early supper. Once through the front door, we were greeted by the restaurant’s front of house, the personable and capable Marlena, who showed us to a table in an airy, well-lit dining room. The sushi creation station anchors the far corner of a dining room that seats 40 hungry diners. Through the double doors is the (very busy) kitchen, where all the yummy smells are coming from. Beyond that is an inside dining area (not accessible on our visit) and access to the restrooms.

Appetizer Tasting Plate: Gyoza Pork Dumplings, Shrimp Blanket, & Fresh Roll with Shrimp

I decided to have something light for lunch, and also get an idea of just how capable Pinto’s kitchen really was. I asked Marlena to suggest an appetizer tasting plate. Marlena suggested we start with some Gyoza ($6), being five pork dumplings boiled, then gently wok-fried. Next, Marlena said that a four count of Shrimp Blanket morsels ($7) would complement the Gyoza dumplings, being shrimp wrapped in rice paper and fried until crispy and golden. Last were two Fresh Rolls stuffed with shrimp ($5).

I was able to share my appetizer tasting plate with my dining partner and compare notes. My dining partner thought the Shrimp Blankets were good, though tough to chew through, something that could be taken care of by adjusting their time in the wok.

The Fresh Rolls were my favorite, being stuffed with rice noodles, julienned carrot slices, fresh-torn cilantro sprigs, fresh basil leaves and two fat shrimp inside the translucent blanket of rice paper. Very nice, especially when dipped in some savory peanut sauce or pungent nuoc mam fish sauce.

It was the Gyoza that my dining partner enjoyed so much; Pinto Sushi Thai Kitchen’s take on pot stickers. The Gyoza’s noodle wrapper enrobes a blend of savory pork and spices, perfectly matched with sweet chili sauce for dipping. My appetizer tasting plate was excellent in all respects. Well done, Marlena.

Pineapple Fried Rice with Shrimp & Chicken

My dining partner spotted the Pineapple Fried Rice with Chicken & Shrimp entrée ($13).

Here, Pinto’s kitchen staff slices the top off of a fresh whole pineapple. The pineapple is then cored; the surrounding sweet pineapple flesh is then scooped out and sliced into bite-sized morsels. These are then tossed into a hot wok together with some excellent fried rice, fat shrimp and diced white meat chicken. For the entrée’s presentation, the cooked fried rice mixture with its pineapple, shrimp and chicken is then returned to the hollowed-out pineapple husk. The lid replaced, the pineapple is plated and brought to the table. Beside the spectacular presentation, I found that the sweetness of the slightly singed pineapple worked well with the shrimp, the chicken and the spice medley of the fried rice. Be mindful that there is enough of this entrée to share between two hungry diners, which is what we decided to do.

The bottom line

My dining partner and I had a really good time with our early supper at Pinto Sushi Thai Kitchen.

The appetizer selection was excellent, and my dining partner’s pineapple-laced entrée was spectacular both in presentation and consumption.

You really owe it to yourself to check out Pinto Sushi Thai Kitchen.

Here’s hoping they become a successful and long-running Johnson City business there.

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