3 places we supported this week
While Thai, Chinese and Japanese cuisine are rarely combined in restaurants in Asia, they are often seen cohabiting on menus here. Blue Mango is no exception. This Thai restaurant offers a variety of sushi as well as Chinese specialties.
Located in Williamstown, this gem is usually filled to the brim with students and families (before the pandemic of course).
When buying takeout at Blue Mango, ordering a Thai iced tea is a non-negotiable way to start your meal. This drink, which is made with condensed milk added to freshly brewed black tea, is deliciously sweet and the perfect drink to balance out any spicy meal.
Growing up, my mother and I frequently visited Thailand, where we ate through Bangkok’s floating markets. While no pad thai can match this level of authenticity and freshness, Blue Mango comes close. This noodle dish is a fan favorite that will keep you coming back for more. (Pro tip: sprinkle a little sugar on top to bring out the flavors like they do in Thailand).
If you’re looking for a hearty, lightly spiced starter, I recommend the Massaman Curry. This curry is made with coconut milk, which gives it a creamy and silky texture. Roasted peanuts on top give the dish an extra layer of richness.
As if all that wasn’t enough, I also opted for avocado salmon rolls and a bowl of Tom Yum soup, a Thai hot and sour soup usually cooked with prawns and hints of lemongrass. If you’re brave enough to handle the heat, you can customize your dish to level 4 or 5 spiciness.
Blue Mango, 27 Spring St, Williamstown, 413-458-0004, bluemangothai.com. Appetizers $7-$10, entrees $13-$23.
MARIA ELENA LITTLE ENDARA
KOSHARI MAMA, SOMERVILLE
Halfway between Porter Square in Cambridge and Union Square in Somerville, this Egyptian vegan restaurant gets half its name from a favorite Egyptian dish. Koshari consists of rice and lentils, topped with chickpeas, elbow noodles and fried onions (tomato sauce too, if you prefer). The combination may seem too much. In fact, that’s right. As substantial as it is (“infantry food,” one member of our party called it approvingly), it also offers varied textures and delicate flavors. One key is fried onions. “Think caramelized onions to the fourth power,” said another even more approving member of our group.
The other half of the name? The restaurant is a mother-daughter operation, run by Sahar Ahmed and Dina Fahim.
Other dishes we ordered included torli, a lightly flavored vegetable stew made with chunks of potatoes, carrots and zucchini. It is served with white rice and a small salad. The same goes for moussaka – with vegetable proteins substituted for meat. Very hearty. Even better than the moussaka, if you are an eggplant lover, it’s the marinated eggplant. Listed as an appetizer, this wonderfully melt-in-the-mouth half-stuffed aubergine could be a main dish.
The creamy lentil soup was really creamy, with a smooth, rich texture and great flavor. It’s hard to imagine the falafel getting any better. The pita bread is beautifully thick and fluffy. It’s so good you could eat it plain. But it is so much the better with the muhammara house which is distributed there.
Koshari Mama offers three desserts: rice pudding; om ali, a kind of bread pudding; and konafa, a baked dessert made with shredded phyllo dough. We ordered the last two. Don’t be fooled by the uninviting appearance of om ali. It has a wonderful taste, pleasantly sweet, thanks to plumped raisins, and a creamy texture. The konafa was even better. The combination of phyllo with orange blossom syrup drizzled on the outside and a sweet custard inside was perfectly balanced.
It’s a mark of both the generous portions here and the thoughtfulness of the service that our takeout order of koshari came with an unrequested but much appreciated container of extra fried onions. Also, even on a very cold night, our food was still warm when we opened it at home, a tribute to the care taken in packaging. Koshari Mama is very caring.
Koshari Mama, 585 Somerville Ave, Somerville. 617-229-9230, www.kosharimama.com. Appetizers $4.50 to $8, entrees $10 to $18.
PINTXO PINCHO TAPAS BAR, WOBURN
In the Before Times of early 2020, I had just finalized plans for a family trip to Spain which, in the following months, would amuse me for its absurdity. The most anticipated stops on my itinerary were a passionate flamenco show – in a cave – and a cozy tapas bar, where we could spend hours drinking side by side with the locals. Later, this dream vacation montage would look like a carefree reel, a postcard from an innocent time when no one thought about indoor airflow or calculated six-foot circumferences or considered the dangers of people. who were projecting too hard. I had to give up.
Now that COVID threatens my getaway for a third consecutive summer – an inconsequential loss in a monumental crisis, I realize – I travel to Spain by palace, if not by plane. I landed in the heart of Woburn, at a restaurant that bills itself as New England’s most authentic tapas bar.
Pintxo Pincho gets its name from the free snacks offered with every glass of wine at tapas bars in Spain. I love this idea, but since I was ordering with the intention of supporting a local restaurant, I didn’t want to be corny and ask for free stuff. I didn’t order drinks – Dry January – and instead ordered a selection of tapas anchored around chicken and seafood paella, something I knew my teenagers would eat.
The paella was succulent, the chicken succulent and the flavors perfectly balanced. But it wasn’t huge, making me wish I’d ordered a lot more tapas. In particular, I should have ordered about five more chorizo croquettes – crispy fried balls with creamy centers that melt in your mouth. I honestly couldn’t identify the ingredients that weren’t named – cheese? cream? – and I didn’t care.
The meat lovers in my household delved into the Chuletitas de Cordero – lamb chops that arrived perfectly rare, much to my husband’s delight. They were topped with a spicy chimichurri, and while they certainly would have tasted better sizzling in a restaurant, they would have been delicious. My daughter and I preferred the crispy chicken empanadas. A simple but authentic treat was Pan con Tomate, a toasted bread rubbed with garlic and tomato that my son endeavored to make at home. I ordered asparagus because it seemed essential to me to have a vegetable on the table (children). It was delicious, served with a silky sherry flavored romesco sauce.
It seemed silly to order olives, which were in my fridge, but if it wasn’t Dry January and I had been at the bar, I would have squatted with olives and the cheese plate. Instead, I ordered a chocolate tart that my teens devoured before I even tasted it. (Sorry, readers. I suppose that was fine.) And so I’ll be back for a date night, in After Times and after Dry January. I’ve already staked out my place at the bar—the one facing the display case with the octopus in it, temptingly close to a porch, the dangerous-looking wine pourer inviting me to take a long, sloppy sip.
Pintxo Pincho Tapas Bar, 385 Main Street, Woburn, 781-932-1379, https://www.pintxopincho.com. Pintxos, $4-8, Tapas, $5-19, Paella, $36-38
Maria Elena Little Endara can be contacted at [email protected] Mark Feeney can be contacted at [email protected] Stephanie Ebbert can be contacted at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @StephanieEbbert.