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Phien's Kitchen, Lowell: Report

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Phien's Kitchen, Lowell: Report

Aromatherapy | Aug 18, 2005 05:40 PM

Report from last Saturday’s hound lunch. Our little group dwindled to 2, so we didn’t try too much. It was hard deciding, but we went with:

Spring rolls: offered pork or shrimp; they were happy to make a mix. Fresh and satisfying, the rice paper wraps had a wonderfully resilient bite.

Papaya salad: a fine version, salty and funky. They split our shared portion into half mild and half spicy, which was a kind gesture but both halves were on the same plate so there was too much bleed-through for the chili non-lover. (Would ask for separate plates the next time.) I was happy with it. I’d say it was roughly parallel with Dok Bua’s.

“Grilled cow’s tongue served with a spicy bitter sauce, on the side, made with fish sauce, soy sauce, minced hot peppers, mint, cilantro, and lime”: Grilled slices, much of it on the chewy side (not a bad thing, but don’t expect tender), and lots of it. The dipping sauce was the really interesting part and I gather the real Lao touch. They weren’t kidding about the bitterness, which comes from lime peel. Neither of us are great fans of bitter but for me, the sauce (in small quantity) grew on me. The bitter element was very clean and clear, and lingered on my tongue for a good long time afterward. Picking up on our reservations about bitter, the owner also brought a sesame/peanut (iirc) dipping sauce. That was good too but not as distinctive.

We were too full to attempt the “sweetened natural purple rice with creamy coconut sauce and egg custard.”

All this plus 2 iced coffees ran to I think $28 post-tax, we had leftovers to split.

The rest of the menu: fried rice; a couple fried noodle dishes; three soups (noodle with beef and seafood; beef with innards; meatball); grilled steak and beef salad, both with spicy bitter sauce, sounding very like what we had, except the salad is tossed with the sauce. Sticky or steamed rice.

A very welcoming vibe. The owner is happy to talk about the food (and anything else, I suspect) and there is no language barrier. I’ll be back.

586 Westford St., Lowell, MA 01851, 978-441-0014
(On a more residential part of the street, with a large bright sign and parking out front.)
Tues-Fri 11-8; Sat 11-9; Sun 12-8. Takeout available.

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