The section of Boston's Fenway neighborhood that lies south of Boylston Street and north of Park Drive and the Fens is a relatively quiet area that, until recently, was known in part for its "restaurant row" on Peterborough Street. Unfortunately, a fire in early 2009 destroyed several restaurants on the street, and (as of late 2010) it looks like it may be awhile longer before these dining spots will return. A few other restaurants are scattered throughout the mostly residential neighborhood, however, including a Thai restaurant that few seem to know about. As to exactly why Thaitation is so little known is a bit of a mystery, but it could be because this cozy little dining spot sits toward the southern end of little-traveled Jersey Street rather than the slightly busier Peterborough and Queensbury Streets, or maybe because it quietly replaced the well-known Brown Sugar Cafe, whose sole location is now on Commonwealth Avenue near Boston University. But whatever the reason, lovers of Thai food shouldn't overlook this place, as it is a high-quality spot that has delicious food, friendly servers, and prices that, while just a tad high, aren't outrageously so.
The exterior of Thaitation is quite attractive, with dark colors giving the storefront a rich, exotic look to it. And the interior is every bit as appealing, with both modern and traditional Thai artwork hanging throughout the small dining room, a few plants sitting by the front window and further into the dining area, old-fashioned lights hanging from the tile ceiling, and a brick-red tile floor contrasting nicely with the pastel walls. Tables are just a bit close together, since space is at a premium in the rather small, square-shaped dining room.
In general, Thai restaurants tend to feature many of the same familiar dishes as their counterparts, and Thaitation is no exception; here you will find satay, shumai, pad Thai, drunken noodle, tamarind duck, mango fried rice, and masaman curry. But there are a few less familiar dishes as well, including a richly flavored liang soup (actually, a Korean dish) that includes shrimp and spinach in a sweet and spicy basil-tinged broth; a stir-fried soft-shell crab plate with vegetables, eggs, and curry powder; and a salmon filet wrapped in cabbage and served with a variety of steamed veggies. And whether diners opt for Americanized or traditional dishes at Thaitation, the food seems to have just a little more flavor and freshness than at some of the other Thai places out there. The humble wonton soup, for instance, has a wonderfully complex flavor coming in part from the cilantro that is mixed in; the steamed chive dumplings have a satisfyingly soft and chewy consistency and are served with a zesty ginger sauce; the basil chicken (which is one of many options that can be created in the "Create a Gourmet Original" part of the menu) comes with a moderately hot chili garlic sauce that really helps bring out the flavors of the other ingredients; the pine nut chicken features all kinds of veggies and is mixed with ginger sauce; the country-style pad Thai has pickled turnips and slightly spicy tofu pieces mixed with chicken slices and shrimp; and the grapow fried rice includes a nice mix of heat coming from the peppers and sweetness coming from the basil and onions. Drinks at Thaitation include Singha beer and a hot Thai tea that has a nutty brown rice flavor, while desserts include crispy mango rolls and chilled longan.
In a city that has its share of decent Thai restaurants, Thaitation certainly seems to hold its own against such terrific places as Montien in the Theater District and House of Siam in the South End. And while it may not quite reach the absolute greatness of Dok Bua in Brookline, few, if any, do. Thaitation may indeed be a bit off the beaten path, but this little spot near Fenway Park is a place that lovers of Thai food should not miss.
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