I was thrilled with my lunch at Montien today. It was easily the best Thai food I've had in Cambridge, and on par or even better than my Brookline favorites--Dok Bua and Rod Dee.
I had a bad feeling at first, because the restaurant is too nice. I've found generally that the nicer the decor in the Asian restaurant, the more it's catering to American tastes, which means the food will be bland. But thankfully my instinct was nowhere near reality at Montien.
My expectations picked up when I saw my Thai iced tea. At not-so-good Thai restaurants this looks and tastes like iced black Lipton tea with some condensed milk in it. Montien's, however, was pumpkin orange, and it emitted a perfume of vanilla and light spice. It tasted perfect, as good as any I've had.
My tom yum soup was also close to as good as I've had, and definitely the best I've had in Boston. It had the perfect balance of spiciness and sourness, and the complexity and depth of flavor that are lacking in the tom yums of most Thai restaurants.
At this point I had high expectations, which were exceeded with my main dish, drunken noodles with shrimp. I had ordered it "extra spicy," thinking yeah right, I'll get a few more crushed red pepper specks. They shocked me by actually making it spicy, full of chiles, spicier than what I get when I order pet pet at Dok Bua. Indeed, the whole dish was far more flavorful than I expected, loaded with almost too much garlic, as well as abundant fish sauce and basil.
Wow, the food was great. The staff were awkward but friendly, and the atmosphere is excellent. It looks like I no longer have to make the trek out of Cambridge to get good Thai!