Tasty Thai

BY AMIRA DAY

As a new transplant to Boston and a self-proclaimed serious eater, I was desperately seeking good, fun, affordable food with flair. Tamarind delivered. The exterior sign led me to expect a slightly more “funky” atmosphere than the one with which I was greeted upon entry. But, hey, I’m flexible.

The ambiance is pleasant and subtle: Envision your average sushi restaurant meets a dressed-up Denny’s — complete with fake flower boxes. On a Monday night at 8 p.m. it wasn’t crowded, nor did it want for warm bodies. We were immediately seated in a cozy booth for three.

Tamarind’s menu is my favorite kind: extensive and full of tasty treats … the kind prone to induce “hungry-at-the-grocery-store syndrome” (that’s the official term). The selection includes all of the requisite Thai dishes: Red, Yellow and Green curry anything; coconut milk soup; and the ubiquitous Pad Thai (which both of my unadventurous cohorts ordered). Yet the more venturesome diner need not fear; the “Interesting Pan-Fried Dishes” are not the only “interesting” items on the menu. The most notable in my mind were the crispy fried shrimp wrapped in a crispy egg roll skin (you never can get too much grease) and the shrimp papaya salad with garlic, chili and peanuts. Add to that a substantial choice of vegetarian dishes and a decent assortment of wine and beer, and I think it’s fair to say Tamarind has something for everyone.

After checking the instinct to order everything on the menu, I settled on a bowl of hot and sour soup to start, followed by the “Interesting Pan-Fried” Chicken Cashew Nut, and we split the mango sticky rice for dessert. The portions were healthy and the quality of the food was high. The vegetables were fresh and crisp; the shrimp were sweet and firm; and the chicken was moist and juicy (for those of you familiar with what I term “the chicken case,” it’s “broiler” not “fowl”). While all of the food was palatable, the dishes that will ensure my return are the hot and sour soup and the mango sticky rice. The soup, a hot and sour base with fresh mushrooms and shrimp, was light, flavorful and just the right mix of spicy and sweet (for those of you far from home, it makes a great sick soup). If you like sweet, creamy, buttery foods (and who doesn’t?) the mango sticky rice is a must. The warm candied rice, delicate and chewy, was topped with perfectly ripe chunks of succulent mango.

The service, while not exceptional, was fine. We were brought glasses of water right away, which were promptly refilled throughout the meal, the food arrived in a timely manner, our server smiled, and he checked on us at various stages during the dining process. My only complaint is that chopsticks are available only upon request. This is more than made up for, however, by the root beer-flavored candies offered at the host stand.

All in all, Tamarind gets a thumbs up. It’s a great place to go for a casual dinner with friends, a relaxed date or even a pleasant meal for one.

Tamarind House Thai Cuisine1790 Mass. Ave. Cambridge, MA(617) 491-9940

Price range: Lunch — $5-8Dinner — $6-10Wine — $17-39

Delivery through “Dining In”(617) 278-2121 www.diningin.com

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