So, I was gonnah hold back, because,
1) I'm selfish, and I don't want my favorite places overrun, and
2) I've posted about this place a bunch of times in the past, but...
...I've eaten at Dok Bua three times in the past week, and I can't stop! Help me before I eat again!
I know this store-front hole-in-the-wall, (411 Harvard St., Brookline) is a board favorite, and certainly a favorite of mine, but they've been on a serious uphill trend lately..I suspect a new chef, but I can't say for sure. I'd like to think it's my improved grasp(ha!) of Thai ordering, but I kinda doubt that..The menu has expanded, the ingredients seem fresher and more caringly cooked than before, while still maintaining the "on the edge" quality of just-barely-under-control enthusiasm of the spicing here.
Lusting for strong flavors after my recent Cambodian introduction, I returned here to compare a few things...I had gone to bat for the Squid salad here, saying that it was even better than the stellar version at Floating Rock..Three out of three chowhounds agreed; there were bigger chunks of tender squid here, more of them, and there was a heat level, that, while searing, didn't mask the complexity of the spices...Just the basic squid, purple onion, celery, basil and peppers, but man, oh man, they combined for a sum larger than it's parts...Enough for a meal, with rice, for a light eater.
We also tried their new vegetable dumplings; big, floppy, steamed rice-noodle raviolis with a savory filling. I am embarrassed to admit I can't identify the ingredients, because I was busy using them as a vehicle for transporting HUGE amounts of the excellent garlic and fish sauce condiment to my greedy mouth. (Make sure you get a tray with all 6 home-made condiments, they are outstanding.) I tried to get them again the next time I went, but my companions had EATEN them before I could stake a claim!
As a non-noodle person, I have also developed a surprising obsession for the Pad Kee Mao here. I subbed shrimp for the beef or chicken, and the plate was so full of plump, juicy prawns, and generous amounts of eggplant and baby corns, I almost thought it wasn't what we ordered, til I noticed there were some noodles hiding in there, too....Wide, flat rice papardelle, in a searing , light sauce...I have criticized the Pad Thai here, as being too gloppy and sweet, but these were perfect; chewy and spicy both times we ordered them. One companion found them too hot; so they HAD to be good!
Papaya Salad has gone uphill, fresh, flavorful, bright and peanuty...My non-hound friend adored it; greedily asked for more, and didn't even beg for any "real salad dressing"...I was so proud of him, I graciously allowed him to order a curry, without making fun of him..In fact, I suggested one another friend had ordered on a previous visit. Fresh Mango Curry wowed the senses, first with the colors of summer that it captures, then with the crisply handled vegetables....A beautiful plate of softly glowing orange, bright green, and dark purple, highlited by the pale pink of the shrimp...Chunks of fresh mango, the thin, purple skin on the eggplant, bright green beans, heaps of barely wilted basil. The curry so thin that it barely clung to the vegetables, and surrounded them on the plate. Beauty was more than skin deep, and the taste did not dissapoint...Another visit brought a duck curry that similarly delighted the diners, who spoke excitedly of the duck (You have to get that one off the board list behind the counter...)
Also off that menu is the Thai-style Seafood Soup, which I've been leaning toward in this cold weather; the only time of year I can eat it without sweating , altho companions say it turns my face bright pink. The priciest thing on the menu, at $13.95, but a well-balanced mix of flavors in a clear broth; big slices of galangal, tamarind and lots of green herbs. They wouldn't tell me more.
Cooked in this were chunks of fin fish, green lip mussels, shrimp, clams and calamari..Served with yet another cilantro-garlic relish on the side, for dipping the fish; which it really didn't need, the fish were so infused by the spice of the soup...This is a multiple-Kleenex bowl...
I have also ordered the Thai Style grilled fish, my "Usual". It's become unusually good, a whole red-snapper, crispier on the outside, and moister on the inside than in the past...The grill seems hotter, and whoever was manning it flipped that fish off at the right moment...A plainer dish, this one depends on the green chili and fish sauce dip that accompanies it.
And speaking of "HOT", that's how we ordered everything, Thai Spicy...I've been told to add, "Pet,pet", the Thai thanslation...It must be working; everytime I leave, the glow follows me for hours, as I plan my next visit.
>>>Caveat for first time visitors- DON"T get the lunch or dinner specials, the ones that you order by #'s 1-10, and come with soup and side orders. Yeah, they're a great deal, but amazingly dull and boring, nothing to do with the greatness of this place. And don't believe the waitstaff when they tell you everything is on the menus they hand you, get up and look at the listings behind the shaved ice counter.... :)