The Boston Phoenix December 21 - 28, 2000

[Food Reviews]

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Rod Dee II

Second to none

by Rob McKeown

on the cheap
  • Seoul Food December 14
  • El Cafetal December 7
  • Zathmary's November 30
  • Il Buongustaio November 23
  • Thai Place November 16
  • Nashoba Brook Bakery, November 9
  • Café Habibi, November 2
  • Flour, October 26
  • The counter at Rod Dee II in the Fenway is sometimes so busy that it's hard to lay a wallet down. To-go bags await their hungry takers. Plastic containers of pork satay, plump meatballs, and sweet corn with coconut milk are piled like bananas at a market. Such a helter-skelter welcome makes me smile.

    Rod Dee II (along with its older sibling in Brookline) is one of the few places offering a glimpse of the yummy cacophony that surrounds Thai food in homeland towns like Chiang Mai, Lampang, and Kanchanaburi. The huge neon-lit menu -- which includes such diverse fare as pad Thai and curries, infamous hot-and-sour soups, regional treasures, and veggie specials -- is only a hint of what the cooks here can do.

    The green-curry (kaeng khiaw-waan) rice plate ($5.50) is a mountainous bed of the ubiquitous white stuff supporting a mildly pungent, anise-y green curry spiked with basil. It's addictive, probably because of the allure of shrimp paste. Rad na ($5.50), a central Thai staple of noodles in a thick gravy with broccoli, kale, and chicken chunks, is quite Chinese in its goopiness.

    But I like Thai cuisine for its dynamic nature. That's what you get in the larb gai ($8.95), a warm ground-chicken salad that stuns the palate with its limey tang, chili spark, garlic and onion bite, and high notes of cilantro. Its captivating texture comes from toasted and ground rice. The same kind of four-on-the-floor flavors are apparent in yam wun sen ($8.95), a cellophane-noodle salad whose cooling toss of shrimp, pork, onions, and that lime-chili-cilantro spark will convert any pad Thai devotee.

    That's the thing about Thai food. Once your palate accepts the wild syncopation of its tastes, the discoveries never stop. Rod Dee II is a good choice for the journey.

    Rod Dee II, located at 94 Peterborough Street, in Boston, is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 11 p.m. Call (617) 859-0969.

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