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RESTAURANT REVIEW

A Gem Behind the Market

Dok Bua: Finally, Good Thai That’s Not Too Pricey

By Ruby Lam

Dok Bua

411 Harvard Street, Brookline

(617) 232-2955

Open every day, 11 a.m. - 11 p.m.

For the longest time, I searched through many Zagat-like restaurant guides, trying to find a decent authentic Thai restaurant in the Boston area that is not pricey. Then a friend of mine told me about this tiny, grocery store-front restaurant, Dok Bua, on Harvard Street near Coolidge Corner. I have come to the conclusion that Thai food doesn’t have to come with a high price tag.

The restaurant is hidden behind a grocery store-front. Yet, once you walk in, you can immediately feel the energy from the sizzling open kitchen and the smell of burning incense. The newly designed menu is indeed “user-friendly.” It is actually a photo collection of all the dishes, which helps amateurs like me to navigate through the complicated menu with more than 100 dishes.

The dining room was half-empty when we arrived there at 7:30 p.m. but was completely full when we left at 9 p.m. Service was prompt -- our orders arrived within five minutes. We tried an authentic Thai salad (Som Tum) and soup (Tom Kha Gai) to start the meal. Som Tum is a papaya salad with long beans, tomatoes and peanuts. Crushed fresh Jalapeno peppers is a key ingredient, so don’t try it if you can’t handle spicy food. The sourness from the fresh lime juice in the dressing serves very well to spice up appetite, as well.

Tom Kha Gai (chicken in coconut soup) is a great starter soup. I personally like it better than Tom Yum because it is richer in content and texture. My other favorite appetizers include Tod Mun (deep fried minced fish cake) and deep fried beancurd (tofu).

One of the entrÉe items we ordered outside the menu was the Crispy Chicken Pad Thai, a perennial special, which we found written on a white board that hung above the cashier. The pad thai noodles are stir-fried crisp and dry on the outside but moist in the inside -- often the secret for many Asian-style fried noodles. For its price ($7.95) and the portion you get, this dish is definitely a steal.

As for curry -- who can have a Thai meal without curry? We chose the mango curry with pork amongst the large curry selection on the menu. Great with rice (and lots of it!), curry is a must, especially for the starving college student on a limited budget.

Unlike other Thai curries, Dok Bua’s curries are chunky with large pieces of vegetables, and the portions are generous, which is great for big groups of people.

The highlight of the meal was the Thai style grilled whole fish (Pla Pow). This is probably the dish with the seemingly easiest preparation method, and yet the most difficult to perfect. The fish is grilled just right; crisp on the outside, moist in the inside and filled with a smoky aroma. I felt like I was standing right by the grill.

To wrap up the meal, we had the Mango Sticky Rice to entertain our sweet tooth. This is truly an amazing dessert -- cold mango chunks served on warm, coconut-flavored sticky rice. It is sweet but not too heavy -- a great finale to such a hearty meal. The drinks menu at Dok Bua is also very impressive. Smoothies, boba tea, Thai iced tea, Thai coffee... You name it, they have it.

Great place for an informal dinner with friends. Great place if you are very hungry but don’t want to spend a fortune. Great place if you really care about good food. Try it next time when you are around Coolidge Corner.