“You don’t tug on Superman’s cape,” the late Jim Croce sang. “You don’t spit into the wind.” And you don’t open up a Thai/French fusion restaurant in Somerville within spitting distance of the renowned *Origin* unless you’ve got brass balls and can “pull the mask off the ‘ole lone ranger” with impunity. The owner of the newly opened *Splash of Thai* certainly has got two brass big ones, and truth be told, though it’s only by a race horse’s nose, if we had to choose but one local Thai/French fusion for a last supper, we’d pick Splash.
The Somerville *Splash of Thai* is sister to the restaurant by the same name in Westfield, and though we’d never been there, if it’s up to the same standard, you’d probably be happy with either of the two. Vichaya Samanjit is the Chef DeCuisine, and is himself a merger of France and Thailand; he was prompted to the calling by his mother who was an accomplished chef in Thailand, and then studied the art of cooking in France. This is, we suspect, why the four dishes we had were a near perfect see-saw balance of East and West, at once daring and fiery, and sweetly subtle.
Splash of Thai's ambiance matches the cuisine quite well. With its dark hardwood floors, the dimly lit room is refined without pretension, spacious and elegant yet comfortable. The artwork on the walls is of honest interest yet never demands your attention. Since the space was near empty during our visit, I can’t vouch for the decibel level either way but I doubt it’s on par with Origin’s full-tilt-boogie roar. The four dishes we had, however, were all at least on a par with Origin and perhaps, I think, a stroke or two better.
We threw ourselves on the mercy of Tora (sp?) our particularly pleasant wait-person, and asked him to bring us two of Splash’s best appetizers, and two top tier entrees. He and two lovely women soon appeared with an order of lightly sauced Thai Fresh Rolls, and a spicy Fried Shrimp and Calamari dish served in a unique ‘bowl’ shaped out of lightly fried wonton skins. The shrimp and calamari were breaded only enough to coat the seafood without overwhelming the delicate taste and texture. The lightly seasoned breading was a fitting frame for the art, so to speak, but the brown sauce was art in and of itself. Both sweet without being cloying, and hot without inflicting pain, the sauce's aftertaste left our tongues and palates tingling with our lips barely singed. My wife was head over heels for the Fresh Thai Rolls. An accomplished Thai chef herself, she takes pride in her own similar rolls, and humbly declared that these, a light and refreshing salad-like contrast to the fried seafood, were every bit their equal or better
For entrees, we were brought the baby rack of lamb done medium rare, and a duck special not on the menu that we hope soon will be. The ample serving of grilled lamb chops was drizzled in a hot pepper sauce awash with diced tomatoes, fresh garlic, mushrooms, and a hint of fresh basil. Again, it was an accomplished marriage of heat and sweet, and we both declared that the dish was up there with the several best lamb dishes we’d ever had. (One at Lorena’s, one at Le Comptoir in Paris, and one, surprisingly enough, at the Bernard’s Inn scarcely around the corner.) The duck, too, was a bull’s eye, swimming in a pineapple based sweet curry. The outer skin was as crisp and flavorful as you’d expect from an excellent Peking Duck, yet the healthy slices of duck breast still beneath it were both moist and tender enough to barely demand effort by your teeth. Tora smiled cryptically when we asked him how in the name of Buddha the chef accomplished the feat before he recommended the Mango and Sticky Rice for dessert which didn’t at all disappoint.
We suggest you get the heck over to Splash of Thai soon, and do give it a try before word gets out and there'll be a wait. While many newly opened restaurants are buggy, and barely limp along for some time, four days after its opening, this one seems to be bug free and has hit the ground running at full sprint. To butcher the lyrics of another Jim Croce song, “If I could put Thai in a bottle . . .” I’d drink Splash of Thai at least once every other week. We probably will.