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.
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.
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.
Krua Khun Yah's vast lunch and dinner menus encapsulate the many and varied flavors of Thailand's culinary history with dishes such as massaman curry, tamarind duck, and Bangkok beef. Chefs willingly adjust the spice level of dishes based on how many ounces of sweat bead on customers' brows from just the smell. Authentic ingredients include rich coconut milk and native chilies, and fresh ingredients come from local farmers' markets. Meals are also cooked in pure vegetable oil to bring out each flavor, coaxing any shy ingredients out of hiding.
Thai Time's authentic menu bombards taste buds with classic Thai ingredients and recipes. Five types of curry jockey for taste-bud attention, with the sweet pineapple and corn of the yellow curry chicken juxtaposing spicy pepper flavors ($7.50 lunch, $10.95 dinner). House specialties, such as the Furious Trio, a triumvirate of pork, chicken, and beef in spicy siracha sauce ($7.95 lunch, $12.95 dinner), treat diners to the chefs' favorite dishes and inspire jealousy in the other entrees. The Boston volcano swims to the forefront of the duck dishes, towing a delectable flotilla of carrots, peas, mushrooms, and coated in tamarind sauce and burning hot magma ($8.50 lunch, $15.95 dinner).