IN THE KITCHEN
Genuine Thai food on the South Coast region of Massachusetts can be hard to find. But at Cilantro Thai Cuisine, which opened a year ago, taking over from another Thai restaurant, it’s as genuine as it gets. It is run by twin sisters, Thailand natives Padee Phimolmas and Tammy Keyes, with head chef Nong Detmonguhanh in the kitchen, born in Thailand, raised in Laos, and learning her craft by growing up cooking. Keyes had run a restaurant in San Diego before moving to the area, and combines what she knows with the chef to create a cuisine reflective of Bangkok and central Thailand that in the future may be expanded to include the flavors of other regions. Phimolmas came to the area with her young children to give them a better education. Following them was husband Varut Phimolmas, who works in various capacities, including making deliveries. He quit his job as a chemical plant manager in Bangkok to come, he said, because “family is first priority.”
The restaurant doesn’t serve liquor, but you can bring your own, and is open for lunch and dinner. It is small, seating 22, so take-out is more the rule. Be advised: If you do come in cold weather, the old building is drafty, but there are space heaters rolled out to keep you warm. Shelves and walls are adorned with Thai art, including elephant figurines and photos of the Thai king, the walls painted lighter than the previous restaurant’s black and gray. Business has been good, Varut Phimolmas said, with regular customers including nearby Tabor Academy students. When it first opened, there was a great crush of customers, which led to slow service, something he still apologizes for, but has since been smoothed out. “We appreciate the support shown to us,” he said about customers who have returned and stayed loyal. “People have been very kind to us.”
ON THE MENU
The offerings are ample here, everything made to order, from appetizers like the chicken wings ($8) -- seven fat wing sections marinated in a blend of seasonings, then slow-baked before being grilled to crunchy perfection -- to classic Thai soups; the tom yum ($4-$7) is particularly tasty, with sour sop, lemongrass, lime juice, mushrooms, tomatoes, baby corn, and cilantro. Another nice warm-up on a cold night is the wonton soup ($6-$8), with steaming chicken broth swimming with juicy ground pork wontons, lettuce, and scallions. Satay ($7) is popular as well -- three sticks of chicken marinated in coconut milk and Thai herbs, and served with peanut sauce and cucumber relish.
You can get salads as well, including the traditional lahp ($11-$12), a ground-meat dish of pork, chicken, or beef, with cilantro, basil, scallions, lime, and spices, served with cucumber slices and sticky rice. The papaya salad ($12) is a hit, too -- shredded papaya with Thai spices, garlic, lime, and cherry tomato, served with chicken wings and coconut rice.
Nothing says Thai like curry, and they have it in a variety of styles, including the mango curry ($13), with thick chunks of fresh mango, bell pepper, onion, mushroom, zucchini, coconut milk, and a choice of pork, chicken, vegetable, beef, shrimp, scallop, or tofu, a smooth and tangy dish that you can get ramped up in heat if you’d like. Pad Thai ($11-$14) is a signature dish, with noodles imported from Thailand, fried with egg, scallion, ground peanut, and choice of meats.
The portions are ample, but if you’ve room for dessert, you may try traditional dishes like mango sticky rice ($5.50), which is fresh mango and sticky rice mixed with sweet coconut milk.
Cilantro Thai Cuisine, 374 Front St., Marion, 508-748-2700, www.cilantrocuisine.com.Paul E. Kandarian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.