Where to Dakzen outside of Davis Square.
What for Bangkok-style street food in a tiny, yellow-walled space. Order at the counter, snag a stool, and slurp.
The scene Busy and relaxed. The small storefront has been open for a few weeks but continues to serve a “soft opening” menu, and staffers are very patient when it comes to explaining the signature dishes. What are boat noodles? Is khao soi spicy? They’ll happily answer and make recommendations. At dinnertime on a weekday, the place is jammed — couples digging chopsticks into rice, pals catching up, a family or two making good use of the restaurant’s two high chairs. There aren’t many tables, but they do seem to turn over quickly; if there’s a line, don’t despair. Shout-out to the calm server who helped our large, kid-filled party push two tables together with minimal trauma.
What you’re eating Owner Panupak Kraiwong named his restaurant Dakzen because it’s a loose translation of the Thai phrase to “chow down,” especially on noodles. And you will: Order $8.95 bowls, filled with noodle or rice dishes, mostly his grandfather’s recipes. Boat noodles are a specialty: Choose among rice, egg, or flat noodles in a pungent swirl of meatballs, pork rinds, bean sprouts, water spinach (known as morning glory), and beef or pork, topped with cilantro or scallions. Pad kee mow, spicy stir-fried flat noodles mixed with baby corn and red pepper, is spiked with bundles of peppercorns — bite into one, and your mouth will be numb for hours. Pad Thai, often bland and gummy at lesser establishments, has a generous dried-shrimp flavor. The tots in our party enjoyed khao moo daeng, a medley of barbecued pork, crispy pork belly, and sweet sausage over boiled rice, tossed with a sweet red gravy. Order up a plate of sai ua (thick slices of Thai-style andouille sausage) while you wait, along with crispy, greaseless poh piah (vegetarian spring rolls).
Care for a drink? Grab waters or soda from the cooler behind the cash register.
Overheard Pity for parents; delight over chopsticks. Two older women eye a family trying to navigate high chairs. “Are we crowding you?” one parent asks. “No, I have two children of my own,” one of the women says. “Looking at you, I need a drink!” her companion adds. A young girl wields chopsticks for the first time. “She could go to college on a dim sum scholarship!” exclaims her tablemate. A woman approaches the cash register to order her meal. “But no boiled eggs,” she insists. “It’s not an allergy. Just a preference.”
195 Elm St., Somerville, 617-718-1759, www.dakzen.com