In Pursuit of Pho at Peabody’s Triple 888

Posted: January 10th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Asian, Peabody, Pho Triple 888 | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Deciding to dine at this Peabody eatery may have you second-guessing yourself. First off, there’s the name. Pho Triple…wait, what? Triple 888. Apparently in Chinese culture the number 888 is lucky and brings prosperity, so why not triple your luck?

Second, the restaurant sits in a small strip mall on Route 1 in Peabody next door to a tattoo shop, and its dining room is quite drab.

The food, however, dispels all reservations. The large menu features mostly Vietnamese and Thai dishes with a few Chinese specialties thrown in.

We started with fresh spring rolls that included grilled chicken with the usual vermicelli, lettuce, and Asian basil ($4.95). They were light and lovely, and the peanut sauce accompaniment was not too sweet.

A bowl of Pho sounded the thing to fight the January chill, and we were not disappointed. The Tai Gan, a beef pho with rare steak and well-done flank ($7.45 for a large) was delicious. The steak arrived at the table rare and slowly cooked in the steaming soup. The broth was rich and complex with a pleasing umami.

The Mi Hai San, a seafood soup with vermicelli noodles ($7.95) was lighter but still savory, aromatic, and very filling.

The third dish we tried was the Bun Tom Noung, which featured grilled shrimp nestled on a bed of rice vermicelli and veggies ($8.75). The shrimp was firm and flavorful, and the vegetables fresh and crunchy.

We left the table pleased with the meal and the prices. We were not so impressed with the bathroom or the murmuring old TV surrounded by random videos in the dining room, but if you’re feeling adventurous and your idea of Asian food goes beyond the kitschy Kowloon fare served down the road, Triple 888 is worth investigating.

Pho Triple 888
136 Newbury St, Peabody
(978) 535-8339

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The Best Thai Restaurant You’ve Never Heard Of

Posted: November 3rd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Asian, Marblehead, Thai Market | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

When an acclaimed local chef tells you to check out a new restaurant, you know it’s worth investigating. In our case, the chef was Barry Edelman of Five Corners Kitchen and the restaurant was Thai Market in Marblehead. Located on Hawkes street in the old Sticky Rice location, Thai Market is owned by chef Tom Kanchananaga and his wife. And we’ll confess, since Barry recommended it a few weeks ago, we’ve eaten there or ordered takeout three or four times already. It’s that good.

What makes Thai Market worth return visits? The freshness and quality are amazing. The chef makes everything fresh on site; the shumai ($6) are a perfect example. Shumai ordered at most Asian restaurants are exactly the same; prefab and predictable. Thai Market’s are handmade, so both the texture and flavor are more intense.

The satay skewers ($5) are small, but the meat is tender and perfectly grilled, and the Paper Shrimp ($6) are crispy tasty morsels that don’t need a drop of plum sauce. The Tom Yum soup ($4) is delicious, with an addictive, spicy lemongrass broth.

The entrees are where Thai Market really shines, though. Chef Kanchananaga is a master at making sauces that are lush but not heavy, and he packs every dish with gorgeous vegetables. We’re not talking the standard onions and peppers here. He uses fat sugar snap peas, fresh zucchini, squash, crisp green beans, bok choy, and even crunchy lotus root. One of our favorites so far is the Seafood Panang ($16) that features both shrimp and tender scallops along with those veggies in a medium spiced red curry.

We also tried the Ginger Fish ($18), red snapper served whole, crispy and savory on the outside and delicate and flaky on the inside. The Vegetable Drunken Noodles ($11) featured a symphony of veggies with a pleasing spicy basil garlic sauce. Even an old standard like Pad Thai ($11) is a little different, with the noodles slightly more al dente, so it’s got a lovely bite.

They don’t serve alcohol yet, but were just approved by Marblehead’s Board of Selectmen for a beer and wine license, so as soon as the paperwork goes through, they will be adding it to their offerings. In the mean time, the Thai Iced Tea ($2) is worth consideration.

So far, Thai Market hasn’t garnered much attention from the locals, so we urge you to head over and try it out. Chef Kanchananaga is just starting out and can’t support much of a staff yet, but don’t be put off if there’s a bit of a wait. Your meal will be worth it. And if you run into Barry Edelman picking up dinner for his family, tell him we said hello.

Thai Market
26 Hawkes Street, Marblehead
(781) 990-3765
www.thaimarketrestaurant.com

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Are We Crazy to Try Sushi on Route 1?

Posted: September 23rd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Asian, Fuji Sushi, Peabody, Seafood | Tags: , | 3 Comments »

Fuji Sushi, located in a small strip mall on Route 1, does not look impressive from the outside. But we had heard good things, and their website proclaims they serve the best sushi on the North Shore, so we headed in to see for ourselves.

Ironically, it was the sushi that disappointed. There is a large selection of cooked and special maki rolls, and we sampled two that were quite good. The money brain roll featured spicy tuna and avocado and was deep fried ($8.25); the mango salsa shrimp roll was a great, fresh-tasting combination, with wafer thin slices of mango curved around the outside ($9.95). But the two traditional items we ordered from the sushi bar were very poor quality. The tuna sushi (two pieces for $5.25) was almost inedible, with large veins of sinew running though it, and the eel avocado roll was far too mushy ($5.25).

We fared better with our entrees. The vegetable don (rice bowl) was piping hot and full of wonderful flavors. At $10.95, it is also a terrific value. The shrimp yakisoba was also very good, with plentiful shrimp and smoky noodles ($11.95). We also sampled the house salad with delicious ginger dressing ($2.95) and the steamed shumai, which were small and not very flavorful ($4.25),

If you are looking for inexpensive Japanese food and prefer “crazy” maki rolls over traditional sushi, you can do well at Fuji. Other sushi lovers will want to look elsewhere.

Fuji Sushi
136 Newbury Street, Peabody
(978) 535-1182
www.myfujisushi.com

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Creativity Thrives at Peabody’s Maki Sushi Bar

Posted: June 29th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Asian, Maki Sushi, Peabody, Seafood | Tags: , , | No Comments »

They say good things come in small packages, and that’s definitely the case at Maki Sushi in Peabody. Behind this unassuming storefront on Main Street is a pleasant space with a large menu of traditional and creative sushi.

We had heard good things about Maki Sushi, which opened less than a year ago and does not yet have a liquor license (it’s in the works for the near future, we’re told). It did not disappoint, with fresh offerings and attentive service.

We started with the avocado salad, which featured wafer-thin slices of perfectly ripe avocado, crisp romaine, and a delicious ginger dressing ($6). We also tried the wasabi shumai, five lightly fried dumplings packed with that wonderful horseradish heat ($6).

For our main course, we mixed up the traditional and the modern. The salmon nigiri was good sized and tender ($5). The California roll with snow crab was generous, tender, and flavorful ($8). The eel roll was the only one we tried that we wouldn’t recommend—a bit skimpy on the eel and not enough sweet sauce ($7).

The number of special rolls on the menu is impressive. We tried the double tuna roll, a definite winner with spicy tuna, cucumber, and scallions in a roll topped with a piece of tuna ($10). The lobster roll was also terrific, with lots of tempura lobster, mango, avocado, and a delicious sauce ($14).

We were too full for dessert, but we may save room for the mochi ice cream or the banana wontons next time. We might even venture outside the sushi bar to try a bento box, which includes rice, soup, salad, gyoza, cream cheese dumpling, vegetables, and a four-piece California roll ($16 for beef teriyaki).

Maki Sushi
43 Main St, Peabody
(978) 854-5426
www.makisushibar.net

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Tasty Thai at Wakefield’s New Red Sugar Café

Posted: February 23rd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Asian, Red Sugar Cafe, Wakefield | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Although Wakefield is a bit outside our usual stomping ground, last week I had an appointment there and decided to do lunch beforehand. Not sure where to eat, I shook the Twitter Magic Eight Ball to see what would come up. Several people suggested Red Sugar Café, a Thai place that has only been open a few months, and I took the hint.

A friend who works in Lynnfield met me at the small storefront, and we were seated at one of the eight tables and given a steaming mug of tea to warm us as we perused the menu.

All of Red Sugar’s prices are very reasonable, but their lunches are particularly so, accompanied by seaweed soup, an appetizer, and steamed rice.

I chose the chicken mango curry with gyoza as the starter ($8). The small, tender dumplings were savory and excellent, and the ginger dipping sauce was divine. The curry was beautiful, with lots of crisp-tender veggies, including red pepper and broccoli, in addition to the chunks of chicken and tangy mango. The sauce was hot and lush but not overwhelming. It was one of those meals I couldn’t stop eating, even though half of it would have been sufficient; it was just too delicious.

My companion opted for the drunken noodle dish and the Thai crab rangoon appetizer ($9). The rangoons were tasty, and the sweet apple dipping sauce was unusual. The hefty portion of pan-fried wide noodles mixed with chicken veggies and basil leaves was another winner—spicy and satisfying.

It is clear that the lunch menu just scratches the surface of what Red Sugar offers, and a return for dinner is in order to experience the full range of dishes. Given the great prices, exceptional service, and delicious food, Red Sugar should be on everyone’s must-try list.

Red Sugar Café
24 Vernon Street, Wakefield
(781) 587-0348
www.redsugarcafe.com

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J-Mart in Danvers: Convenient, But Not Abundant

Posted: July 7th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Asian, Danvers, J-Mart, Marketplace | Tags: , , | No Comments »

As much as we love discovering the wonderful Asian-food treasures at H-Mart, we were hoping J-Mart in Danvers could save us a trip to Burlington if we only needed a few items. But it was not to be—this is more of a convenience store with some Asian items than an Asian food market.

There is no fresh produce in the store, and the freezer shelves were not laden with goodies. We did see frozen round wonton wrappers for making dumplings and some packages of steam buns. On the non-perishable shelves, we were pleased to see rice stick, nori, unsweetened coconut, wasabi paste, and shrimp paste. The rest of the small store consists mainly of cookware, Asian candy, and coolers with ice cream treats.

There were some issues when the store first opened with it being closed during business hours that have now hopefully been resolved. When I visited last week, the gentleman at the register assured me the store is open from 10:00 to 8:30 Monday through Saturday and closed all day Sunday. The store does not have a Web site; it has a Facebook page, but it’s not exactly filled with information.

J-Mart
120-A Water St (Rt 35), Danvers
(978) 767-9229
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Danvers-MA/J-Mart-Asian-Food-Store/131127030234506

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Soothed and Satisfied at Kame

Posted: May 13th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Asian, Beverly, Kame | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

We love Japanese food, but it can be pricey. That’s why we like to get our fix mid-day, taking advantage of the specials and de-stressing in the calm atmosphere at Beverly’s Kame.

We’ve visited Kame several times over the past few years and find the food consistently fresh and well prepared. The menu contains no surprises but has a great selection of traditional Japanese/American fare like dumplings, sushi, tempura, noodles, and teriyaki.

We like the fact that sushi is available with either white or brown rice, although the price for the latter is slightly higher. We sampled the spicy tuna, salmon/avocado, shrimp tempura, and eel/avocado maki ($5–$7.50), as well as salmon sushi ($4.75 for two pieces). The fish was tender, the avocado was ripe, and the rolls had the right amount of wasabi. We also tried the steamed shumai appetizer, which was perfectly cooked and came with spicy mustard sauce ($6.50).

The best deals on the menu are the lunch specials, which run from $7.50 to $8.95 (sushi plates are a few dollars more), and the bento boxes. We tried the tempura bento box and got more food that we could eat for $10.95. There was a large portion of tempura, salad, two egg rolls, three dumplings, and a bowl of rice, plus a miso soup starter. The salad had a bit too much dressing, but everything else was spot on, and the tempura was perfectly fried.

Several varieties of sakes are available, including one unfiltered, ranging in price from $5.50 to $7. We tried the Kaishu Honjyozo, which was $5.75 and came as a shot standing in wooden box containing more sake. Perhaps one of our sake-expert readers can tell us the origins of this presentation.

If you prefer to indulge after the meal, try the tempura dessert ($5.50), which we’ve enjoyed on previous visits: a large plate of delicious tempura-battered bananas topped with chocolate sauce.

Kame
250 Cabot St, Beverly
(978) 922-9333
www.kamerestaurant.com

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Hot and Crunchy at Danvers’ Sawasdee

Posted: October 9th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Asian, Danvers, Sawasdee Danvers | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments »

Award-winning Thai food for lunch? Conveniently located in downtown Danvers? What’s not to like? Indeed, we found everything to our liking on our visit to Sawasdee, which recently won Northshore Magazine’s vote for best Thai food.

The interior is airy and comfortable, with brick walls and wood floors, funky light fixtures, and more tiny bamboo plants than we’ve ever seen in one place. A cozy bar occupies one corner, and the restaurant serves beer and wine.

The menu is just as well thought out, with a huge selection of appetizers, the option to create your own stir fry or curry (choice of meat and sauce/veggies), and plenty of lunch specials. We especially like the option to change the white rice in the specials for brown rice ($.75), sticky rice ($1), or rice noodles ($1).

We started with a DIY appetizer special call fun fun lettuce wraps: large leaves that hold a chicken mixture and crispy bean thread noodles, all dipped in a sweet chili sauce ($5). Fun, crunchy, and delicious.

Then we moved onto pad thai ($6.75), panang curry with beef ($7.75), and pla rad pik (crispy fish, $7.75). The pad thai noodles and large shrimp were succulent, and the sauce was a tad sweeter than we’re used to—absolutely addictive. The panang had just the right combination of coconut and curry, although the beef was a bit chewy.

The fish was quite fiery and had a terrific light breading. It’s available as a whole fish for dinner, and we recommend it for those who complain that Thai restaurants turn down the heat too much for Americans. The vegetables on both the fish and the curry dishes were crisp/tender, just the way we like them.

Done right, there’s nothing like Thai food to satisfy those cravings for comforting carbs, salty sauces, and heat—and Sawasdee definitely does it right.

Sawasdee Danvers
49A Maple St, Danvers
(978) 744-8424
www.sawasdeedanvers.com

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North Shore Food Finds

Posted: October 2nd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: American, Asian, Bakery, Beverly, Bistro, Deli, Gloucester, Marblehead, Marketplace, Peabody, Revere, Rockport, Salem, Sweets and Treats | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Everyone has their favorite restaurants, from the one you look forward to visiting on special occasions to the one you turn to when you can’t even think about cooking. But what about those favorite dishes and treats you’ve discovered in your neighborhood or on your travels? We’ve put together a list of ours in the hopes that readers will be inspired to respond in kind. If you’ve got a North Shore food find to add to the list, let us know in the comments, and we’ll be sure to check it out.

Bouchon, A&J King
Talk about addictive. This little cake looks simple, but it’s not. It’s rich and not too sweet with a melt-in-your-mouth texture and a wonderful hint of almond. One of the best chocolate experiences on the North Shore. Oh, and they have great bread, too. ($2.25)

House Dumplings, Sugar Cane
We love dumplings of all sizes and shapes, but these are our favorite. The dough is thin and wonderfully crispy, the inside is flavorful, and the accompanying ginger soy sauce puts these little gems over the top. ($6)

Tiger’s Tears, Floating Rock
This dish has it all: spice, citrus, and crunch. Thin slices of marinated beef are served cold and paired with sliced red and green bell peppers, onion, basil, red pepper flakes, and ground roasted rice. If you like spicy food, you will love this—but don’t be scared off, we found the balance of heat and citrus just right.

Chicken Salad, Henry’s Market
We’re picky when it comes to chicken salad—no large chunks or odd ingredients, thanks. Henry’s makes it just the way we like it: finely ground, super fresh, and perfectly seasoned. We like it made into mini-sandwiches on the top-knot rolls baked fresh in the store daily.

Guacamole, Cielito Lindo
Made fresh and served in a molcajete (a stone bowl for grinding), this guac is the perfect antidote to a long day and just one of the things we love about this often-overlooked Mexican restaurant in Beverly. Grab a tortilla chip and dive in—you’ll be amazed at how quickly the generous serving will disappear. ($8)

Fresh-Baked Cookies, Shubie’s
These are the kind of cookies you could easily pass off as homemade (not that we would ever do that, of course). They’re baked fresh in the store every day, and while the peanut butter and oatmeal raisin ($8/pound) are terrific, the larger kitchen-sink cookies are the stuff of dreams, packed with dark and white chocolate and cranberries ($1.75 each).

While you’re in the store, be sure to check out the cheese counter, which has one of the largest selections of New England cheeses we’ve seen. Selections include several from Vermont Butter & Cheese, Cabot clothbound cheddar, Jasper Hill blue, Blue Ledge Farm crottini, Ploughgate Creamery willoughby, Spring Brook Farm tarentaise, Maplebrook Farm mozzarella, Shy Brothers Farm Hannabells, and cheddars from Shelburne and Grafton Farms.

Strudel, Helmut’s Strudel
What is it about apples and pastry that makes us swoon? We don’t know, but this place is the gold standard for the combination. Sweet, gooey apple filling and a crunchy, flaky not-too-sweet shell come together for the perfect mouthful. Folks, there’s a reason this tiny Bearskin Neck shop stays in business selling nothing but strudel and croissants. ($4 per slice)

Hot Cookie Dough Topping, Terry’s Ice Cream
If you like your cookies just barely cooked and hot from the oven, you get the idea here. Even better than hot fudge on top of ice cream, this is decadence in a cup. Go ahead, indulge; we’ll never tell.

Toasted Iggy’s Bagel, Foodie’s Feast
If you’re a fan of Montreal-style bagels (thinner and more flavorful than New York style), you’ve got to try Iggy’s, which are very similar. Our favorite way to enjoy them is to let the nice counter folks at Foodie’s toast one up and serve it alongside a steaming mug of joe. They’re also available at Whole Foods in Swampscott.

Truffle Paté, Crosby’s
This mousse-like spread is the perfect addition to your holiday cheese platter. We like to serve it on lightly toasted baguette slices or water crackers. It’s so good, you may want to buy two for your next cocktail party and forget to put the second one out.

Ribs, Smokin’ Jims
If you’ve never heard of Smokin’ Jim, you might be tempted to drive right by his parking-lot location on East Main in Gloucester. But these ribs are the real deal: smoked on oil-drum cooker until they just about fall off the bone. Side dishes like cole slaw, beans, and corn bread are available, too. There are picnic tables nearby, or you may want to drive over to Stage Fort Park. Hours vary seasonally, so check the Web site before visiting.

Marissa’s Salsa, Whole Foods
You’ll never want to go back to that stuff in the jar once you try this fresh version, packed in ice in the produce section and featuring a heavenly balance of heat and cilantro. Even better, it’s made in small batches by Nahant resident Marissa Salomon.

Potato Chips, Mandrake
We like the well-built drinks, reasonably priced food, and friendly bartenders at this downtown Beverly spot. Add the freshly made potato chips served as bar snacks, and you’ve got the start of a beautiful relationship.

We had a lot of fun putting this post together, and we look forward to hearing from readers who try one of our “finds” and those with a special treat to contribute…

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Savoring the Tastes of Vietnam

Posted: August 13th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Asian, Peabody, Sugar Cane | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments »

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As huge fans of Asian cuisine, we’d been meaning to get to Sugar Cane, near Peabody Square, for quite a while. We’re now kicking ourselves for having waited so long.

Aside from one dish we didn’t love, everything we put in our mouths on recent visit was superb, starting with the drinks. We tried a sake-tini, a mai tai, and the zombie. All were delicious, and the mai tai stood out as better tasting than others we’ve had at other Asian restaurants.

While sipping, we studied the menu, which includes both Chinese and Vietnamese dishes for each category, side by side. Since Vietnamese is hard to come by north of Boston, we agreed to order from that side, with the exception of the house pan-fried dumplings ($6), which came with ginger soy and were crispy and light—some of the best we’ve had (and we’ve had a lot).

The small bowl of beef pho ($4) was fine but seemed bland. When we added the hoisin and hot sauces it came with, though, the flavor came alive. We also enjoyed the banh xeo crepe ($8), a large, crisp omelet with shrimp, pork, bean sprouts, and mung bean. It’s a must-have. The nem cuon summer roll with grilled pork ($6) was billed as a Vietnamese specialty, so we gave it a spin but didn’t like the texture of the meat. More likely our American palates than a miss from the kitchen.

All the entrees we ordered were dishes we would have again, starting with the chicken with lemongrass ($10). Wonderful savory flavor with tender meat and crisp-tender vegetables. The kho salmon with baby bok choy ($13) featured two large fillets, perfectly cooked and topped with a delicious spiced caramel sauce.

The mango shrimp were firm and good sized, with plenty of mango, peppers, and onions to accompany them ($13). Our last entrée was angel hair Singapore style with curry sauce, chicken, shrimp, pork, peppers, and onions ($8), which was spicy but not overly so and really hit the spot. Next time, we may try the tempting option of creating our own stir fry with many options for meat, vegetables, and sauces.

The service was extremely attentive and friendly, with our waiter calling over the manager when he couldn’t understand one of our questions about the drink menu. For those of you who’ve been curious about Vietnamese cuisine, Sugar Cane is a sure bet—and you can go with someone not as adventurous thanks to the Chinese dishes on offer.

Sugar Cane
106 Main St, Peabody
(978) 532-7800
www.sugarcanepeabody.com

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