Brown Sugar‘s announcement that it would close the doors at its Fenway location in early 2009 had the makings of a culinary disaster. Coupled with a fire that wiped out six good-quality, affordably priced restaurants on nearby Peterborough Street, it appeared that what had once been a foodie oasis would instead become a wasteland.
Fortunately, those who appreciated Brown Sugar’s outstanding Thai food did not have to wait long. In February 2009, the restaurant reopened under the name Thaitation. Even better, the menu hardly changed — no surprise, given that the new owner, Ratana Chourattana, had been a cook at Brown Sugar for 13 years, according to this story in the Fenway News.
Why am I telling you this? My Reinventing the News class is putting together a Google map of our favorite places to go and things to do within about a mile of the campus — a “Newcomer’s Guide to NU.” This is my contribution.
Thaitation has the feel of a small neighborhood place and can get a bit cramped. My lunch companion, Susan, and I arrived a bit before noon last Friday and were seated immediately by a window. Be forewarned, though: If you come much later than that, you may find yourself standing in line.
I ordered the drunken noodle with pork ($8.50), flat rice noodles with green beans, pepper, onion and fresh basil, all of which was stir-fried in hot chili. It was fresh and hot, ideal for a cold day on which snow had made its last (let’s hope) ugly appearance of the spring. But it wasn’t nearly as spicy as I’ve had it in the past, either at Brown Sugar or Thaitation. Some might prefer it that way, but I like to break into a good sweat when I’m eating drunken noodle.
I also ordered a Thai ice coffee ($2.95), an odd choice given the weather. But the mixture of coffee and sweetened condensed milk is too good to pass up under any circumstances.
Susan played it safe with pad Thai ($8.50), which combined rice noodles with shrimp, chicken, egg, scallion, bean sprouts and ground peanuts. She also had the homemade limeade ($3.50), which, if I’d been paying more attention to the menu, I might have tried myself.
The pad Thai, Susan reports, “didn’t skimp on chicken or shrimp,” had “lots of peanut flavor” and was moist — an important consideration given how quickly pad Thai tends to dry out. She gave the limeade a big thumb’s-up as well.
At this point it’s uncertain whether the Peterborough Street restaurants will ever be back. El Pelón, a well-loved Mexican restaurant, recently reopened in Brighton, a considerable distance away. Mike Mennonno, a local blogger, writes that plans recently filed by the block’s owner call for upscale establishments that probably mean the “locals will be priced out.”
Thaitation, though, stands as a shining example of the way things were in the Fenway. Not to mention a really good place to eat.
Thaitation, located at 129 Jersey St., in the Fenway, is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday from noon to 11 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 10 p.m. Call (617) 585-9909.