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Dec 22, 2008 11:00 AM

Why is Thai food in boston so bad?

Until a couple of years ago I hated Thai Food so much so that I would actively avoid it.
Then I had real Thai food first in DC (Thai Square) and then in NYC (Sripraphai).
So I gotta wonder why does Boston have such bad Thai food?

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  1. Not sure what you're talking about - which Boston Thai places that you have sampled are so bad? What makes them so (bad)?

    1. I don't think you can fairly compare any US city's Thai food, in general, to somewhere like Sri which is near-universally regarded as the best Thai restaurant in a very large city.

      I like S&I the best around here, but you won't get many remarkable dishes if you order off the English menu.

      1. Just a suggestion but, perhaps by posting a positive query e.g., "What are your favorite, authentic Thai places to eat," would reward you with helpful responses to this oft asked question.

        1. So you've only had Thai food at two different places? (Yes, yes, I know Sripraphai is pretty legendary.)

          18 Replies
          1. re: Prav

            Its systemic to Boston ... we have pretty good all other types of ethnic restaurants but fall flat when it comes to Thai and I am just flummoxed as to why.

            1. re: manish01

              I dunno...I think that Khao Sarn and Dok Bua (both in Brookline) are good, as well as Thai Moon and Sweet Chili (both in Arlington), and then there's Montien (Theater District) and Brown Sugar (Comm. Avenue). I guess it's just a matter of opinion....

              1. re: hiddenboston

                I probably go to Montien the most because it's most convenient for me. Be sure to ask for the Thai menu. Most of the staff is from Thailand, and go home to visit often; so they must know something about cooking Thai food.

                Khao Sarn, I like for their how moak. Dok Bua is very good but someone just reported big price increases. There's another sort of take out place in the area that people here seem to like.

                BTW, aren't you the poster who got bumped from 10 Tables? Maybe you just have bad restaurant luck..:)

                1. re: 9lives

                  I am and possibly I have very bad luck ;)
                  I have never tried the Thai menu at any of these places but I will next time; I don't think I knew that some of these places had one.
                  I am quite sure they can make some amazing food I just think they might be "americanizing" there food too much. Its a shame b/c I know there is large contingent of people who really do want the real thing vs. a McDonald's version ...

                  1. re: manish01

                    Like I said, I'm most familiar with Montien...which has an entirely different Thai menu..printed in Thai, with transliterations and English descriptions.

                    They'll also give you a 3 or 4 set collection of hotter spices but you have to ask. Someone who speaks Thai will correct me, but saying you'd like your food "pet pet" will get it hot.."pet ma"..hotter.

                    By asking for these, you'lll immediately distinguish yourself and not get the standard "Americanized" food.

                    A few of my favorites are moo pad med prik thai on..or pork sauteed with basil and peppercorns and a spicy squid salad.pork larb. Someone here raved about the fire pot soups and they're on my list to try.

                    I hope you enjoy it!

                    1. re: 9lives

                      Spicy is a step in the right direction but only part of it there is a sweet, sour and just all around freshness to Thai food which doesn't get captured.

                      BTW, do they use lots of birds eye chilies? I mean I can slather sriracha on just about anything and eat it ... except maybe desert

                      1. re: manish01

                        They do use bird's eye chiles and many other fresh herbs and ingredients. BTW, If you like bird's eye chiles. they're very easy to grow and I had lots this summer.

                        As to srirachi on dessert, don't knock it til you try it. This was the work of 1 of the more creative CH's at the end of a Potluck Cafe dinner..:)


                        1. re: 9lives

                          I find just going to the Indian grocer and picking up a couple of handfuls ,for .25, and freezing them works great.

                          I have grown ,though, Habeneros and they have come out ok.

                          1. re: manish01

                            fyi, bird's eye chilis are super easy to grow. i am terrible at growing stuff, and i managed to keep it alive and get a lot of peppers off it.

                  2. re: 9lives

                    i think the take-out place you're thinking of (which has a few seats btw) is Rod Dee, on Beacon st i'm not a Thai expert but a friend of mine who spent a few yrs in Thailand quite likes it (I used to like their Indonesian fried rice, it's been a while tho)

                    1. re: barleywino

                      yes, that's it.

                      I haven't been but it's generally well reviewed on the board.

                      1. re: barleywino

                        I live around the corner from Rod Dee and so I eat there quite often (its easier and cheaper than cooking, so when I don't have the time, which lately is often...). I find that I like it much more than Dok Bua in terms of its breadth of flavors. Rod Dee has spicier, sometimes even smokier, spicy dishes, and their "sweet" has more nuanced flavor. I also find their rice and rice noodles are more to my liking.

                        They also have one or two daily specials which is a great way of broadening your Thai food horizons.

                        I also enjoy Brown Sugar, though to really get the best there you have to order deep off what normal Americans would order, and saying "thank you" in Thai after ordering doesn't hurt. My only complaint is you pay for location, as the food isn't that much better than Rod Dee or similar.

                        One of my best friends growing up was Thai (he was born in Thailand, his younger sister was born in the States and they traveled back often as they had family in very well-to-do positions there) and I ate quite a lot of it, both in their kitchen and out to Thai "we don't speak english here" restaurants, so I've got a pretty good sense of what the food should basically taste like, regionality differences aside. Of course, this was in CA, where arguably the best Thai food in this country can be had. Now being a fan of their food and culture, I definitely lucked out growing up with that.

                        1. re: Nechushtan

                          Speaking of Rod Dee, for those who have eaten at both locations, is there a (or much of a) noticeable difference between the two? I normally only find myself near the Fenway one, and haven't eaten at the other one. I'm just curious if the main Rod Dee is heads & tails better or if they're both about the same.

                          1. re: jgg13

                            There is a new Rod Dee , I think, across from the Publick House/Roadhouse in Brookline now?

                            I think the problem is restaurant owners fear the yankee palate here!?

                            1. re: Trumpetguy

                              Just another vote for Rod Dee, here. We tried Dok Bua once, and it's okay, but we won't likely stray from Rod Dee again when in Brookline. Further out, we are also fond of Lanna Thai Diner and Green Papaya.

                              Having been subjected to a fair amount of overpriced, bland, glooey sweet "Thai" food in places that shall not be named, I can understand the OP's attitude. Don't give up!

                              Lanna Thai Diner
                              901 Main St, Woburn, MA 01801

                              Green Papaya
                              475 Winter St # 1, Waltham, MA

                      2. re: 9lives

                        Montien has to be one The worst Thai restaurants in the Boston area. The food is consistently bland, overpriced and the service sucks worse than my Hoover. Pretty much what you expect from the Theatre District: made for tourists and out of town theatre folks. Take another 15 minutes and go to Copley Sq. Thai Basil, while not outstanding, is much better than Montien. Chili Duck has some terrific hot pots and dishes you wouldn't normally order.

                        1. re: Greygoose53

                          I don't find Montien completely awful if you order off the Thai specialties menu; ditto for its sister restaurant Chili Duck. Both fall squarely in the Americanized Thai camp; even the less cliched dishes lack the strong flavors of more authentic places like S&I, Dok Bua and Rod Dee.


                          1. re: Greygoose53

                            "worst in the area, bland? couldn't disagree more. Maybe you're ordering the wrong dishes or haven't seen the Thai menu.

                            Made for tourists and theater goers; yes but a large base of Thai customers. I don't consider Copley Place any less touristy than Chinatown/Theater District.

                            To each his own.

                  3. I like Sweet Chili's, on Mass. Ave. in Arlington Center.