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Apr 17, 2008 07:33 PM

Splash Of Thai in Somerville - - A Review

“You don’t tug on Superman’s cape,” the late Jim Croce sang. “You don’t spit into the wind.” And you don’t open up a Thai/French fusion restaurant in Somerville within spitting distance of the renowned *Origin* unless you’ve got brass balls and can “pull the mask off the ‘ole lone ranger” with impunity. The owner of the newly opened *Splash of Thai* certainly has got two brass big ones, and truth be told, though it’s only by a race horse’s nose, if we had to choose but one local Thai/French fusion for a last supper, we’d pick Splash.

The Somerville *Splash of Thai* is sister to the restaurant by the same name in Westfield, and though we’d never been there, if it’s up to the same standard, you’d probably be happy with either of the two. Vichaya Samanjit is the Chef DeCuisine, and is himself a merger of France and Thailand; he was prompted to the calling by his mother who was an accomplished chef in Thailand, and then studied the art of cooking in France. This is, we suspect, why the four dishes we had were a near perfect see-saw balance of East and West, at once daring and fiery, and sweetly subtle.

Splash of Thai's ambiance matches the cuisine quite well. With its dark hardwood floors, the dimly lit room is refined without pretension, spacious and elegant yet comfortable. The artwork on the walls is of honest interest yet never demands your attention. Since the space was near empty during our visit, I can’t vouch for the decibel level either way but I doubt it’s on par with Origin’s full-tilt-boogie roar. The four dishes we had, however, were all at least on a par with Origin and perhaps, I think, a stroke or two better.

We threw ourselves on the mercy of Tora (sp?) our particularly pleasant wait-person, and asked him to bring us two of Splash’s best appetizers, and two top tier entrees. He and two lovely women soon appeared with an order of lightly sauced Thai Fresh Rolls, and a spicy Fried Shrimp and Calamari dish served in a unique ‘bowl’ shaped out of lightly fried wonton skins. The shrimp and calamari were breaded only enough to coat the seafood without overwhelming the delicate taste and texture. The lightly seasoned breading was a fitting frame for the art, so to speak, but the brown sauce was art in and of itself. Both sweet without being cloying, and hot without inflicting pain, the sauce's aftertaste left our tongues and palates tingling with our lips barely singed. My wife was head over heels for the Fresh Thai Rolls. An accomplished Thai chef herself, she takes pride in her own similar rolls, and humbly declared that these, a light and refreshing salad-like contrast to the fried seafood, were every bit their equal or better

For entrees, we were brought the baby rack of lamb done medium rare, and a duck special not on the menu that we hope soon will be. The ample serving of grilled lamb chops was drizzled in a hot pepper sauce awash with diced tomatoes, fresh garlic, mushrooms, and a hint of fresh basil. Again, it was an accomplished marriage of heat and sweet, and we both declared that the dish was up there with the several best lamb dishes we’d ever had. (One at Lorena’s, one at Le Comptoir in Paris, and one, surprisingly enough, at the Bernard’s Inn scarcely around the corner.) The duck, too, was a bull’s eye, swimming in a pineapple based sweet curry. The outer skin was as crisp and flavorful as you’d expect from an excellent Peking Duck, yet the healthy slices of duck breast still beneath it were both moist and tender enough to barely demand effort by your teeth. Tora smiled cryptically when we asked him how in the name of Buddha the chef accomplished the feat before he recommended the Mango and Sticky Rice for dessert which didn’t at all disappoint.

We suggest you get the heck over to Splash of Thai soon, and do give it a try before word gets out and there'll be a wait. While many newly opened restaurants are buggy, and barely limp along for some time, four days after its opening, this one seems to be bug free and has hit the ground running at full sprint. To butcher the lyrics of another Jim Croce song, “If I could put Thai in a bottle . . .” I’d drink Splash of Thai at least once every other week. We probably will.

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  1. mmgpsych,

    Great review!! To be honest when I heard that somerville was opening another thai restaurant, especially near origin, I was not impressed, but it seems it is worth a try....and soon. I love that you just put the ball in the court of your server when ordering, seems that she did you well.

    2 Replies
    1. re: agruel

      Thanks! We weren't expecting much and were surprised. BTW, our server, Tora, was a guy.

      1. re: mmgpsych

        whoops.... I'll have to personally apologize to Tora when I go.

    2. We ate at Splash of Thai just last night. We'd gone to Upstate NY and on the way home, the DH suggested we try a Thai place in Somerville that I'd mentioned. Turned out that Splash had taken the place of Thai Kitchen, but we forged ahead anyway. We'd been at a party, so weren't super hungry, hence the ordering of just the Fresh Rolls, Grilled Squid salad, and Hot Peppers Chicken (can't remember the Thai name just now). The Fresh rolls (which I make often at home) were good, but perhaps had too much mesclun in them. I realize that Splash isn't just a hole in the wall, but rather striving for something more, but still, I must admit, I like summer rolls to be made more traditionally, rather than frenchified. Anyway, still quite fresh, crunchy, and tasty and the brown sauce was good, though a little sweet for my taste. Squid salad was great--quite hot which I like and yet still very flavorful (ie: not just tossing in red pepper flakes for heat like at Aroma). There were little chopped up pieces of softened lemongrass, which was a nice touch and added to the melding of flavors. The hot pepper chicken was fine, nothing special, certainly good enough, but no real flavors outstanding. The DH ordered it at 3.5 out of 4 on the heat scale and I thought that it was pretty tame--Squid Salad (not advertised as hot or anything else) was way more firey. I also ordered a side of black sticky rice, as I've only ever had white sticky rice. This was on the sweet side and coconutty which isn't normally something I enjoy, but i really liked it anyway.

      The service was attentive but not overbearing and the atmosphere is great, although they could turn down or off the cheesy radio station. The thing that made us sad was that we were the only people there from 5:45-6:30 on Sunday. I realize we started on the way early side, but generally, you'd expect people to be there by 6:30. Of course, the whole town seemed really quiet...but still. Anyway, it was overall a good experience and I hope that more people start going! For what it's worth, I thought it much better than Origins, which I've never cared for all that much.

      1 Reply
      1. re: brownie

        Brownie, thanks for your review of this new restaurant. For whatever reason, nearly all restaurants in Somerville are closed on Sunday. I discovered this last fall while trying to find a place to eat after a mid-afternoon movie in Manville. Once more people discover that Splash of Thai is open on Sunday, business may pick up.

        Strangely, a few restaurants I know were open on Sunday during winter, but now they are closed again.

      2. Happened to be in Somerville this AM and decided to try Splash of Thai for lunch. Afterwards, I congratulated myself on how smart I was!

        I was the first one in the door, just before noon, but within ten minutes, three or four other parties had arrived. I was greeted by Tora (do you think he's the only male server there?) who shook my hand and announced that he would be my server today. He also spelled his name for me and I had this urge - I fortunately suppressed it - to yell Tora, Tora, Tora as loud as I could.

        Anyway, I didn't have a lot of time so I skipped the appetizers and went straight for the Panang Curry with beef. With beef or chicken, this curry is $7.95; with shrimp, it's $9.95. This price difference seems to be followed with all the curries listed on the lunch menu. I must say, this very simple curry was very satisfying, being only slightly spicy. According to Tora, even the very spicy dishes are tolerable at Splash, something that is not always the case in other Thai restaurants.

        For unknown reasons, I decided to have an espresso while I perused the dinner menu. The espresso was fine though nothing special. The dinner menu, however, looked very inviting and I have resolved to get back to Splash ASAP to check out those fresh rolls and one of their more interesting entrees. I don't plan to have any lunch that day!

        5 Replies
        1. re: ambrose

          I asked a waiter friend of ours how splash of thai is. He previously worked at Origin, and now works at a different Thai restaurant and is from Thailand. His response was that American people must not know what good thai food is, because he thought Splash was terrible. Im going to take his advice and not bother going there. He said Origin has great food, but he hated working there.

          1. re: J1Scarlett

            Well, I'm certainly no authority on what constitutes good Thai food but I have always enjoyed eating at Origin and my initial experience at Splash of Thai was a very positive one. My lunch there was at least as good as the meals I've had at Origin.

            I wonder if your waiter friend could answer one question. Neither Origin nor Splash of Thai claim to be "authentic" Thai restaurants (this has been discussed in other threads on this board). Since your friend is Thai, perhaps he can suggest a restaurant in central Jersey where I can try authentic Thai food.

            Also, I know you yourself like Thai Kitchen. Which location would you recommend?

            1. re: ambrose

              I love Thai food and I am not an authority but I have eaten at Origins many times in both Somerville and Morristown and love the food.
              However, I have been going recently to Sirin Thai in Morristown which I think is the best Thai restaurant in central New Jersey.
              The food I hear from my Thai friends is authentic and beautifully presented. The owner and hostess Donna is fantastic.
              It is a BYOW. I hope people on this board will try it.

              1. re: s.piller

                We did dine at Sirin once and weren't particularly impressed. Maybe they were having an off night. Who knows? But you're right. We should give them another chance. When we do . . .

            2. re: J1Scarlett

              That sound odd to me since neither Origin nor Splash pretend to be authentic Thai. Now that I know each intimately - - they are more similar than different - - I do slightly prefer Splash. I, like Ambrose, would love a recommendation for 'authentic' Thai food so I have a point of comparison. BTW, we've been to the new Origin (Origin III) and I'd suggest waiting a bit. The same dishes we usually get were not nearly as good there. It was something like the difference between an imitation designer handbag and the real thing: You recognize the product but something is not quite the same.

          2. Great review, thanks. I actually really like Origin but am eager to try this one out. There is a location in Westfield as well, no?

            Are both locations byob?

            2 Replies
            1. re: yankeefan

              Yes, there is a Splash of Thai in Westfield and yes, both locations are BYO.

              1. re: ambrose

                great, thanks. Im looking forward to trying out.

                couldnt find menu online, guess I have to go to find out!

            2. I second your recommendation for Splash...cant wait to go back