Brookline: Pon Thai Bistro cooking with fire

Let's Eat by Kitty Kaufman

Courtesy of Pon Thai Bistro

pon Pon Thai Bistro is a classy place where the cooking's authentic and they're happy to see you. It's appointment dining and take-out friendly when only contemporary hot Asian cooking will do. We blow in for a snowy Friday lunch and there's a party going on but there's room for us in a chic setting two steps up out of winter and into: thank goodness, it's Friday. Chef Pon Hunter, we find out later, is in the kitchen. Yes, you can tell.

pon shumai Are these fine looking steamed shumai with pea greens to go with Lan's Jadot Macon-Villages Chardonnay? Yes, there's shrimp and chicken with onion and mushroom. Enough taste with a shake of cilantro to skip dipping but dip we do. The wine melon and apple nose is working the peas. We care not at all that it's snowing and that power's out everywhere but here. Too bad only one of us drinks at lunch and sadder still that it's kind of early for a lichi martini. Must come for cocktails at the bar.

pon fire Best thing to bring along is someone who's been here before, like Lan. Pon cooks with fire. It's well done, layered and complex. Hot is hot, though I like what I'm tasting across the table. If you're not sure, ask, since they do moderate. Here's Lan's phad graprao with shrimp, a sophisticated fiery blend of shiitakes, snow peas, onion, and chilis with either chicken, pork, salmon or duck. Pon plops a fried egg if you wish but we like it the way it is today with a richness that comes from someone who, say, is up on her French cuisine. (Pon is French-trained.)

pon green curry Next is vegetable green curry also with shiitakes and snow peas plus green beans, cauliflower, butternut squash, peas and red pepper. You add chicken, pork shrimp, seafood, or duck. I find the layered heat adds depth you want though I myself could be called wimpy in the heat. Brown or white jasmine long grain rice, where the new crop, native to Thailand, is a little sticky and even more fragrant if you cook it just right; some chefs add extra water. I'm not the best rice cooker and when I find jasmine or sushi rice, for example, that stands by itself, yes, envious.

pon pad thai Pad thai is ready for me in no time. You say, so?, but for me it's 20 years since I've had it and now that I can, indulging. Today's chefs are happy to saute it sans eggs and nuts. It's addictive and I'm guessing tamarind, lime and fish sauce aptly handled make slippery rice noodles rich so you don't care there are no eggs. Choose shrimp, beef, pork, tofu or vegetables. The portion's big enough that there's enough to take home. Right out of the box it's still great. And that squished lime works the fish sauce - bring it on.

pon Another appetizer: rice paper rolls with grilled shrimp, perfect lettuce, cress and carrots with chili lime sauce. Always a fan of rice noodle rolls with less green and more pink.

It turns out you only have to ask when you want to meet a chef. I've learned that when you ask just right, servers pull them from the kitchen in San Diego and Brookline and Boston (but not Cambridge). Pon comes right out to join our server, Yothin, who can stop polishing wine glasses at the four-seat mirrored bar. Lan and I chat them up in this modern dining room; now that it's after two you hear Dixieland jazz that was there all along up against the tin ceiling. There's something about snow we don't mind so much in the warmth of new friends and sophisticated dining. Your denim and hoodies need no press and they will be fine. Come early for one of the 30 seats in the truest sense of the word: bistro.

Pon Thai Bistro
213 Washington St (Village)
Brookline, MA 02445
617. 608. 3593
© March 21, 2016 Lan Dennie is a good sport with a savvy palate. Kitty Kaufman is a Boston writer. See more of their food adventures at Corporate Edge and Twitter
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