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[Cheap Eats]

Pad Thai Café
Fast and fiery

on the cheap
Spice All Asia Tu y Yo Café Belo

Pad Thai Café doesn’t do a lot to improve on standard-issue fare, but it does serve up good, hot food — and fast. Kitty-corner from the now-defunct Tower Records, in an area teeming with Berklee students, the place was bustling on our lunchtime visit. Nonetheless, food appeared on the table in less than three minutes. Oddly, the main course arrived before the appetizers — but why sweat the small stuff?

You’ll be doing plenty of sweating anyway after a few mouthfuls of the chicken-mango curry ($8.95), a dish that submerges generous portions of chicken in strong yellow curry, then surrounds it with summer squash, carrots, and tomatoes. Big chunks of sweet mango provide a welcome respite from the spice, though the dish could have stood more of them. The red curry, splashed with coconut milk and flavored with basil, comes with string beans, bamboo shoots, and peppers, all served over a heaping mound of white rice. It’s available in " rice plate " and entrée sizes, and can be served with chicken, beef, pork, tofu and vegetables, duck, or seafood; price ranges from $5.50 to $8.95. If you opt for the seafood, be prepared for shrimp and many, many squid rings.

Appetizers were fine, if a little unimaginative: the " pan cake " ($4.50) resembles the nan found in all good Indian restaurants — flat in appearance and flavor, surprisingly filling. The shumai ($4.50) are round, somewhat small shrimp dumplings. Served steamed or pan-fried, they’re pleasantly piquant.

Pad Thai Café’s deep-blue walls, high ceiling, and open airiness do much to allay whatever spice-induced discomfort one may suffer. The only problem is the music — Fleetwood Mac, Tina Turner, and James Taylor were just a few of the artists who serenaded us. That’s fine adult-contemporary fare, but as my friend observed, " it must make the Berklee students cringe. "

Pad Thai Café, located at 1116 Boylston Street, in Boston, is open Monday through Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., and on Sunday from noon to 10 p.m. Call (617) 247-3399.


Issue Date: August 2-9, 2001