Little Plearn is a small Thai restaurant that occupies the old space of Pirro's on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley. Pirro's had been my favorite restaurant hang out through college, the food was dirt cheap and pretty good, I never got carded when I ordered a glass of Montepulciano or Chianti with dinner and the little restaurant was both comfortable and semiromantic. Needless to say, I miss it a lot. Little Plearn is a poor replacement.
There is nothing inherently bad about Little Plearn. The food is fine, perhaps mediocre by the standards of Thai restaurants in the Bay Area but that's still pretty good. It's also quite cheap and the service at the almost empty restaurant is competent. What it really misses is the ambiance. Pirro's, whose motto was "unpretentious dining", was by no means an elegant place, but its checkered tablecloths and subtle lightening (most of it seemed to come from the candles at your table), gave it both a homey and datenight feeling. Little Plearn has turned on the lights (fluorescent lights it seems), highlighting the smallness of the room and its tall plain walls and giving it a sad, lonely atmosphere. That's perhaps the reason why at 7 PM on a Friday night (December 2004), the place was mostly empty. No more than one or two tables were occupied while we were there (in addition to the one where the waitresses sat), though just as many people came to get take out. The emptiness was good for us, as it gave our daughter (2.5 years old now) room to dance around without bothering anyone.
The menu is relatively short and offers stereotypical Thai dishes. It mostly highlights wok fried dishes, only four curries are available (panang wasn't one of them). Most dishes are $7.25 and only one (jumbo prawns) is over $10. Rice is extra at $1 per person.
We started with the chicken satay ($6), four think skewers of chicken served on top of cabbage with a little plate of salad and another one of peanut sauce. The chicken was fine, and Mika ate a whole skewer. The sauce tasted a little like bottled stuff, but was also fine and Mika liked the salad.
Mike had the param chicken, chicken served on a bed of cabbage and baby spinach, with broccoli and peanut sauce. It was a little bit spicy, but Mika still ate the broccoli. The chicken was a little on the fatty side and the sauce had the consistency of the one that came with the chicken satay. It was fine, nothing special but good enough.
The same can be said about my masaman curry (only available with chicken). It wasn't as complex or delicious as other masaman curries, but it was competent enough. It was a little bit spicy, however, enough that Mika didn't want to eat anything with the sauce.
All in all, we thought the food was fine and service was competent. I'd go back if I felt like Thai and was in the immediate neighborhood (e.g. was going to Habitot), but wouldn't make a special trip there.
Little Plearn Thai Kitchen
2283 Shattuck Ave.