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.
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.
Pan Thai serves up traditional, savory Thai dishes ranging from mild to spicy in a chic, green-tinged setting. Kick off meals with the crab rangoon, a mélange of crab meat and cream cheese that blends dairy with the sea better than brie-coated wetsuits ($5.95). Pan Thai's salads, such as the green-papaya salad stuffed with tomatoes, green beans, peanuts, and a spicy house dressing ($6.95), make a slimming supper. Pasta plates are completely solid and topped with options such as the red-curry noodle in a spicy basil sauce ($9.95) or the pad thai, which comes in chicken, pork, and veggie-and-tofu incarnations ($9.95). Wash down spice-laden sustenance with a sweet thai iced coffee, a creamy, caffeinated concoction with a strong java flavor ($2.50).
True to its name, Pho Basil serves its popular pho with a side of basil leaves. Of course, with so many other fragrant ingredients––fresh bean sprouts, lime, onion, scallion, cilantro––topping the savory broths, it's easy to see how the tiny herb might get overlooked. Luckily it still packs a sweet, peppery punch to soup bowls filled with rare steak, shrimp, calamari, or shredded chicken, or to a Thai green curry chock full of yellow squash, Chinese eggplant, and other veggies named after trendy paint colors. While pho is a star player on the menu, the Thai and Vietnamese restaurant also features daily specials, which may include catfish and broccoli steamed inside a banana leaf or a curry puff stuffed with chicken, potatoes, and onions, and served with a cucumber dressing. But the biggest surprise at Pho Basil might be the warm, accommodating atmosphere. The Phoenix called the service in the "vanilla, caramel, and turquoise" restaurant "attentive and sweet", while Boston.com called the dining room "sparkling white" and noted that the business "treats its clientele––in jeans, sweat pants, and hoodies––like kings."
According to Robert Nadeau of the Boston Phoenix, the chefs at Thaitation Restaurant know when enough is enough. “You smell the garlic, but don’t taste it,” the columnist writes, going on to rave about the chefs’ willingness to forgo heavy-handed seasonings for perfectly balanced flavors.
Indeed, slight hints of coconut broth, galangal root, and lemongrass infuse the lengthy list of items on owner Ratana Chourattana’s dinner menu. But these fresh seafood stir-fries, curries, and noodles are not all that Thaitation Restaurant has to offer. The eatery ends meals on a sweet note with a large number of desserts—a feature not typical of Thailand, as Nadeau points out. Guests can dip spoons into sweets such as coconut mousse as plentiful sunlight filters through huge dining-room windows, illuminating golden walls and tables set with cloth napkins.
If a customer is unsure what to order at Pad Thai Cafe, there’s no need to question the staff—the chef’s suggestions are already on the menu. The Boston-fried rice features egg, crispy chicken, and sausage over a tomato sauce infused with pineapple and raisins. The ba mee song kruang, meanwhile, blends surf and turf with roast pork and a fish ball over a bed of egg noodles. Of course, the menu has plenty more to choose from, including Thai curries, noodle dishes, and fried rice. Even dessert has its share of rice, except it’s sticky-sweet, sprinkled with fresh mango and mung beans, and served with a side of coconut milk.