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Fasten your Seatbelts:

Last month, Harvard Square became home to another new Thai Restaurant: 9 Tastes. Tiffani and I went to check out the new basement joint, which is run by the same owners as Spice. Since it just opened, we didn’t have to wait for our table. The friendly staff on hand, recommended the 9 Taste Sampler ($9.95), which included a combination of cool appetizers: 9 Taste Rolls (crispy vegetable springrolls), Veggie Puffs (rice flour stuffed with veggies), Chicken Satay, and Coconut Chicken.

For our main courses, Tiffani ordered the 9 Tastes Pad Thai ($7.35), and I opted for the Phuket Sea Basil ($13.95). Tiffani’s dish was an all-inclusive version of the traditional Pad Thai recipe stir-frying together baby shrimp, chicken, Thai turnips and bean sprouts with savory rice noodles. My dish, which was rated with two peppers for hot-ness, included large shrimp saut‚ed in a hot chili sauce with assorted vegetables and sweet basil leaves. Overall, we found the food to be just a little above average.

9 Tastes is not a place you necessarily want to take your parents or a date, but it’s a good option if you don’t feel like waiting at Spice or if you want something quick and casual with friends. The prices on average were slightly less (maybe $1 or $2 lower than their sister restaurant, Spice), but the upside that the owner quite nicely pointed out is that they have their liquor license. The license was one of the main incentives for Panja Lymswan and Nancy Jitjareuk, the co-owners, to start up a second Thai restaurant in such close proximity. (Apparently Boston is quite stingy with giving out new liquor licenses so for the past three years Spice has not been able to serve.)

Panja, who is a native of Bangkok, immigrated to the US over 27 years ago. Today he is the owner of four Thai restaurants in the Boston area: 9 Tastes, Spice, Bangkok Express (downtown near Fanieul Hall) and Monteim (near the Wang Theatre). When I asked Panja what made 9 Tastes different from Spice, he said that 9 Tastes had at least 9 very unique exotic Thai dishes (thus the name ) that you can’t get at Spice or other Boston area Thai restaurants.

The owner’s 9 favorite tastes:

1) Miang Kum ($6.95): A classical Thai Appetizer – toasted chicken, red onions, ginger, lime, peanuts, diced fresh mango, all wrapped in a Thai spinach leaf

2) Kaho Tang Na Tang ($5.95): One of the most popular snacks / appetizers of Thailand – puffed rice cake crackers served with a coconut milk shrimp and chicken dip.

3) Bangkok Jungl ($11.95): Marinated chicken in Thai spice with banana chunks, onions, summer squash, zucchini, bell peppers, and lemon leaves in a special curry sauce.

4) Beef California ($12.95): Marinated beef saut‚ed with onions, peppers, mushrooms, jalapeno and scallions in a hot chili sauce.

5) Seafood Jeem Joom ($14.95): Steamed shrimp, scallop and squid with assorted veggies in lemon grass soup served with Jeem Joom Sauce.

6) Cashew Nuts Crispy Chicken ($10.95): Stir fried with bell peppers, onions, and scallions in a chef’s special sauce, topped with cashews.

7) Yong Yong Lao Noodle ($7.95): Steamed noodles, tofu, bamboo stripes, mushroom and bean sprouts topped with garlic soy sauce.

8) Mango Fried Ridc ($9.95): Choice of meat, tofu veggies with mango, green peas, onions, tomatoes, scallions and egg.

9) Spicy Noodles ($8.95): Choice of meat, tofu, veggies stir fried with egg noodles with veggies in a spicy Thai basil sauce.

Our overall rating:
Atmosphere: Casual, but very clean
Food: Slightly above average
Service: Very friendly
Portions / Value: Good

March 3, 2003
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