Tom Yum Koong's chefs build on traditional Thai recipes to load their menu with exciting and eclectic ingredients ranging from tangerines and mango to wild boar and squid. Sugar and spice join forces to season the thick sauce simmering in the black-pepper-mango curry ($10.95), a flavorful bowl of vegetables and cashews mixed with a choice of meat. A medley of seameats such as mussels and squid sizzle in the Phuket fried rice ($10.95), and the fantasy tilapia ($13.95) takes time off from reading J.R.R. Tolkien to glide out of the kitchen atop a bed of veggies simmering in chili sauce. Basil leaves join peppers, onion, and pork in a skittering dance across the skillet in the pan-fried wild-boar basil ($9.95). Fresh-fish cravings recede at the sushi bar to prevent persistent urges to trawl through exhibits at the local aquarium.
It’s not uncommon for the dishes at Baan Thai to arrive with elegant garnishes such as roses carved into carrots or, even better, a bite-size dumpling tied to the plate. Even without the accessories, though, Baan Thai’s elaborate menu garners attention with a wide range of dishes, from sweet pineapple fried rice to spicy Thai curries poured over chicken, duck, or tofu. After guests munch on sushi, pad thai, or the plates themselves, servers appear bearing desserts of sticky rice with mango or crispy fried bananas.
Visitors to Tom Can Cook quickly confirm that Tom, whoever he is, isn’t just feigning confidence. He's a master of Asian cuisines, fusing Thai, Korean, Szechuan, and Vietnamese influences for a menu with dozens of different sauces and proteins. Spicy kimchi fried rice hosts morsels of chicken or beef, and the similarly Korean okdol bibimbap mixes meat with veggies and an egg in a stone pot or sturdy top hat. Cooks sauté roasted duck in curry sauce before adding in snow peas, pineapple, and basil sauce to make it siam duck choo chee, and boneless pork loin enjoys a dressing of spicy basil sauce and bamboo shoots in the wild boar basil dish.
Inside the dining room, patrons nourish their bellies at white tablecloths while casting glances at Asian screens, decorative floral gewgaws, and oblong hanging lamps stationed throughout.
Inside a spacious setting adorned with Thai-style woodcarvings, stately pillars, and hanging plants, Erawan of Siam's chef and owner prepares authentic Thai cuisine using techniques perfected across her more than 20-year career. She folds traditional herbs and spices into every dish, starting with appetizers such as the red-curry-infused todmun, a golden-fried shrimp cake served alongside a ground peanut and cucumber dipping sauce. From there, tongues traverse main dishes that, like the best Harlequin romances, span three levels of spiciness, progressing from sweet and mild stir-fried roasted duck with pineapple and scallions to grilled salmon laced with extra spicy choo-chee curry.
Sunshine Fine Thai Cuisine's pan-flipping masters churn out menus of authentic Southeast Asian fare with market-fresh produce, high-quality meat and seafood, and 100% vegetable oil. Fiery native chilies ripple beneath a seemingly peaceful pool of sweet coconut-milk curry, waiting to pounce on tongues and bites of mango fried rice with cashew nuts. The menu ranks many dishes' spiciness levels on a scale of one to three chili peppers, but chefs will happily customize any entree for patrons with low heat tolerances or those who regularly slurp bowls of lava. Smoking-hot plates of crispy chicken basil excite tongues with a special chili brown sauce, whereas the rama garden's mixed vegetables coddle taste buds with a gentle peanut sauce. Sunshine Fine Thai Cuisine plays host to midday dalliances and nights on the town, and its armada of drivers delivers piping-hot panang to those comfortable at home or up to their ankles in fresh concrete.
If your old method of sampling everything on a restaurant's menu tends to make bewildered enemies of everyone else in the restaurant, today's Groupon will let you curtail the thievery while still treating the palate. For $15, you get $35 worth of small-plate Thai cuisine and drinks at Ronnarong Thai Tapas Bar in Somerville.