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Jul 13, 2009 06:02 PM

Sichuan Cuisine at Thailand Cafe near MIT

This is my first post, but I've been a long time lurker; finally found a place that it seems no one else has posted about. Thailand Cafe (302 Massachusetts Ave near MIT) -- a sub-par Thai restaurant that is barely acceptable even to MIT undergrads -- has recently started serving a very nice Sichuanese menu (see attached photo.) Rumor is that someone affiliated with Sichuan Gourmet is the new chef there. Went today with several students from MIT, on the recommendation of a grad student who grew up in Beijing and who swears by the place. Despite it being a run down Central Square hole-in-the-wall, the food was very good -- much better in my opinion than the now defunct Anise (which had some interesting dishes but tended to miss more often than not.) I haven't tried many of the other Sichuanese places in the Boston Area, but I found the food at least on par with Sichuan Garden, with a good balance of spices and quality ingredients.

Not sure I can remember everything we had, but we had:

Cold Noodles with Chili Sesame Vinaigrette - Spicy, large (rice?) noodles with lots of chili sauce. Sichuan-y goodness.

Five Flavored Beef - Cold beef appetizer served plain. Well executed, but my least favorite of the dishes we ordered.

Double Cooked Pork Belly with Spicy Capsicum -- Awesome; thin sliced pork belly, with green onions. Spicy but not overpowering.

We also ordered a hotpot with fried chicken and taro (not on the menu, but apparently available in limited quantities if you ask for it); delicious, though not as overpoweringly fiery as some hotpot I have had.

Chengdu dry hot chicken -- Great. Simple fried chicken chunks with lots of dry hot peppers.

Towel gourd with bamboo fungus -- Gourd itself was plain but the bamboo fungus was outstanding -- soft, salty, spongy.

Dry sauteed green bean -- We ordered this without pork (which I suspect would have made it better) to accommodate a vegetarian -- it was well executed but a bit plain.

All in all, I was pretty happy. I'll definitely be back.

Thailand Cafe
302 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139

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  1. nice, detailed first post.
    keep it up!

    1. Welcome, very cool and a good find to boot.

      1. Thanks for that, great find. I will check it out as Sichuan is probably my favorite of the Chinese cuisines. Odd that now we have both a Thai restaurant and a Shanghainese (New Shanghai) with Sichuan menus.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Zatan

          new shanghai used to have a shanghaiese chef, CK Sau, who now owns C K Shanghai. So the new owner has a different culinary orientation but wanted to keep some of the old customers coming back. So it appears that he did not change the name.

          1. re: Luther

            First pass: fu qi fei pian is nice and contains tender and thinly-sliced meat with a nice ground peanut/oil sauce, but is a little flat-tasting. Could use more of a smoky/spicy flavor. Dry hot chicken is delicious in that "how can you go wrong" sort of way, the flavor is dominated by salt but there is a good, slowly-building numbing flavor in the oil. Nothing was super-spicy, which is how I'd describe most of the dishes at Framingham Sichuan Gourmet.

            Here's a photo of the specials white board. I didn't notice it until after I'd placed my order, or I would've gotten the saliva chicken.

            1. re: Luther

              And I think I speak for ALL of us in our unanimity for begging you to translate that board for us! We know you can!

              1. re: galleygirl

                The first two are saliva chicken and "ErJie" rabbit. As far as I know, ErJie is some famous restaurant in ChengDu and the dish looks something like this:


                I'll translate some more later but perhaps someone who actually can read handwritten Chinese properly can do it faster.

                1. re: galleygirl

                  1. 口水鸡 "kou shui ji" Saliva chicken $7.95
                  2. 二姐兔丁 "er jie tu ding" ErJie rabbit chunks $6.95
                  3. 樟茶鴨 Camphor and tea-smoked duck $13.95
                  4. 沸腾魚 "fei teng yu" Boiled fish (usually translated as boiled fish filets with chili sauce or something like that) $15.95
                  5. 干烧全魚 "guan shao quan yu" Dry-roasted whole fish $15.95

                  1. re: Luther

                    Oooh, two fish dishes, and one (fei teng yu) my favorite....Thanks!

                  2. re: galleygirl

                    6. 粉蒸排骨 "fen zheng pai gu" Steamed rice-covered ribs $11.95
                    7. 荷叶蒸肉 "he ye zheng rou" Pork steamed in lotus leaves $11.95
                    8. 火爆腰花 "huo bao yao hua" Stir-fried "flower" pork kidney $9.95
                    9. 毛血旺 "mao xue wang" Chongqing-style duck's blood cubes in spicy sauce $12.95
                    10. 通心菜 "tong xin cai" Hollow-stem vegetable (kangkong; water convolvulus) $8.95

                    1. re: galleygirl

                      11. 小椒牛肉丝 "xiao jiao niu rou" Shredded beef and peppers $9.95
                      12. 魚香鸡片 "yu xiang ji pian" Yu xiang chicken slices $8.95
                      13. 酸菜牛筋 "suan cai niu jin" Pickled cabbage beef tendon SOLD OUT $10.75
                      14. 魚香茄子 "yu xiang qie zi" Yu xiang eggplant $8.95
                      15. 肉末姜豆 "niu mo jiang dou" Minced pork with long beans $8.95
                      16. someone who can actually read these
                      17. help me out
                      18. 虎皮尖椒 "hu pi jian jiao" Tiger-skin peppers $8.95

                        1. re: Luther

                          I think its:
                          16. 芋头烤鸡 "yu tou kao ji" - taro roast chicken
                          17. 酸菜大肠 "suan cai da chang" - stir-fried pickled cabbage and intestines (large intestine...)

                          1. re: avial

                            16. 芋头烧鸡 - yu4 tou shao1 ji1 - roast chicken with taro
                            17. 酸菜大肠 - suan1 cai4 da4 chang2 - sour cabbage with intestines

                            1. re: lipoff

                              I'm glad we arrived at the same characters, my mastery of the Chinese language has been ...absent... since I was 9 =)

                      1. re: Luther

                        Interesting selection! If I have time for a break tomorrow, I'm going to have to try this place out.

                    2. Wow, you could knock me over with a feather. If it wasn't for the great detail in your post and the photos I would have thought you were joking. Thailand Cafe is notoriously bad. I, unfortunately, went there once when I lived literally just down the street. But this looks wonderful --- I'll have to get over there this week to check it out. Thanks very much!

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: lipoff

                        I got takeout from this place years ago when we were living in temporary housing in the area. The Thai food was so bad I threw it away without eating, and I was really hungry, so that's saying a lot. Sounds like they've made quite a change!

                        1. re: MrsCheese

                          Don't be fooled. As the OP alluded to, the Thai is still abominable. They catered a recent event at MIT and the quality of food was horrifying. This new development, however, sounds very interesting and I hope to hear more feedback before jumping in and trying it myself.