Generally speaking, folks who are looking for top-tier Thai cuisine in the Boston area tend to head to Brookline and Boston proper (for instance, Khao Sarn and Dok Bua in the former, Montien, House of Siam, and Brown Sugar in the latter). Other may head to Cambridge, Quincy, Arlington, Belmont, Somerville, and a few other communities near Boston that have good Thai restaurants. But if someone told you that Tewksbury may be home to one of the top Thai restaurants in the entire greater Boston area, would you believe that person, or think that he or she was pulling your leg? Well, in our opinion, it may just be true, as this mostly restaurant-poor town north of Boston happens to have a true gem within its borders called Mango II, a Thai restaurant that is certainly worthy of a trip from Beantown.
Mango II is situated in a strip mall on Route 38, and is very easy to miss (there are a number of strip malls on this road). The interior of the restaurant is warm, pleasant, and comfortable, though its squarish shape inside never lets you forget that Mango II is indeed part of a small, generic roadside shopping center. The staff is friendly and personable, and both the waitstaff and the kitchen is pretty flexible in allowing diners to customize their own meals in case of food allergies, specific preferences, etc.
Unlike many restaurants in the outer suburbs of Boston, Mango II leans more toward authentic ethnic cuisine than Americanized dishes, though there are also a few of those listed on the menu. Appetizers are particularly good; the tender beef soup with noodles, vegetables, and a hint of coriander is perfect for a cold fall or winter day (as is the slightly sweet tom yum soup), while the steamed shumai (dumplings with ground shrimp and chicken) have a full, rich taste to them. For those who like tofu, the deep-fried golden dices get a boost in flavor from the peanut sweet and sour sauce served on the side. A couple of other good appetizers are the satay (strips of marinated chicken or beef), which is a little like chicken or steak teriyaki that you might get in Chinese restaurants, and the curry puffs, which vary in ingredients depending on the day (the vegetable curry puffs have a wonderfully subtle sweetness which makes them our pick).
The entrees at Mango II include favorites such as pad Thai and Singapore noodles (with the country pad Thai being particularly good), but a number of less common dishes are also worth looking into. For instance, the garlic fried rice with pork, chicken, and beef has a subtle garlic taste that is in perfect balance with the dish, while the thunder noodle plate (wide pan-fried rice noodles with ground chicken and vegetables in a basil chili sauce) has quite a remarkable medley of tastes (though perhaps too spicy for some). A deceptively hot dish is the beef basil, which comes with a good amount of hot peppers but not so much as to overwhelm the dish.The tangy and sweet pineapple fried rice and the tasty marine cashew nuts in chili sauce (sauteed seafood with cashew nuts and vegetables) are a couple of dishes that are both delicious and good options for those who don't like heat or excess spices. Among the curry dishes, the emerald curry is a great choice, with a deceptively hot spicy green chili sauce that has no coconut milk, and a number of ingredients mixed in, including Thai melon and eggplant. If you are looking for a milder curry, the massaman curry is a delightful option, with a rich and creamy sauce blending well with the potatoes, carrots, and onions. The Singapore noodle dish is also more rich-tasting than hot and spicy, with a nice mix of flavors coming from the scallions, bell peppers, onions, and curry sauce. And for those who wish to try a unique, truly authentic Thai dish, the "specialties" part of the menu includes such dishes as Mango's mango chicken (sliced mangoes and stir-fried chicken in a spicy mango spicy sauce), fisherman told me curry (sauteed sole, salmon, and swordfish in a mild curry sauce), absolute chicken (fried marinated chicken with mayonnaise and crispy lime leaves), and much more.
Mango II may be in an area that is not typically known for its restaurants--and it may be a bit too far away for Bostonians who have limited access to transportation--but if you don't mind heading 20 miles north of the city to dine on some of the best Thai food in the Boston area, Mango II is a restaurant that needs some serious consideration.
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