A good meal is near the top my personal list of life's luxuries. I'm a fan of many different ethnic cuisines and consider myself adventurous when it comes to food; who doesn't love good Chinese food, or sweetly spicy Indian dishes? It's a delight to stumble across a small eatery or diner that serves something unique or extraordinarily tasty, but more often than not I leave dine-in meals unimpressed and wishing I had saved the money by cooking at home.
Boston has myriad dining options in any price range, cuisine and flavor that customers could hope to find. But the city is a bit of a drive from home, especially around dinner time. Thankfully, Canton residents don't have to go so far to dine on authentic Asian flare.
Nisa's Thai is an exotic gem that sits along a bustling strip of Washington Street. I had seen the restaurant front many times in passing, and finally decided to take a chance on this café's Thai experience.
As I entered the waiting area, I was almost immediately greeted by owner Nisa herself. Settling in at a table in the delicately decorated dining room, I went about the business of choosing from the extensive menu before me. As one
of just several guests in the café, I had my waitress's undivided attention. She delivered my order within a few minutes of entering the building.
While waiting for my appetizers to arrive, I had the pleasure of experiencing my first Thai Iced Tea. A quick pull from the straw revealed that the orange-colored drink was creamy and sweet, though not so much so that the herby flavor of the tea itself was lost. The sampler plate arrived as I was just a few sips in, and my eyes admittedly widened at the generous portions.
I tend to shy away from things that are fried as a matter of personal preference, but
the chicken wing appetizers were delightfully crispy and complimented nicely by the sweet sauce that was brought with them. The chicken satay was tender, a nice balance of sweet and savory. Served with a zippy ginger sauce, the steamed shumai had soft but firm skins that almost snapped when I bit into them. The shrimp summer rolls were my favorite of the starters, consisting of fresh lettuce and cucumber, basil, shrimp and udon noodles wrapped in somewhat-translucent rice skin. These I could eat for the entire meal, especially when paired with the sweet and tangy sauce.
In an attempt to turn up the heat (what's a Thai meal without some spice?) I opted for a cup of Tom Yum Goong. The soup was listed with two chili symbols by it's name on the menu, and it did not disappoint. Working hard to remember to leave room for my main course, I pushed the bowl away to be packaged up. Then, three dishes accompanied by a pad of rice garnished by a slice of pink
grapefruit were placed before me.
As something of a curry connoisseur, I was thrilled with the yellow chicken curry dish. When properly done (to my taste, at least), yellow curry and coconut milk come together to create a rich, creamy and aromatic sauce. Nisa's yellow curry was a spicey and exotic experience that was only improved upon by the dish's juicy pineapple chunks, red and green pepper slices, onions, squash and other well-suited vegetables.
The Beef Cashew Nut reminded me of beef stew with a few Thai twists. Covered in hot, savory pik pow sauce, the beef and vegetables were cooked to a tenderness that one would find in homemade stew.
My final entrée of the night was the one I was most in anticipation for: Nisa's Spicy Udon. The udon noodles were thick, springy and had a wonderful balance of chili and sweetness, neither of which was overwhelming. The combination tempted me to make room in my stomach for the entire portion. As with the other dishes, the stirfried vegetables were tenderly cooked and delicious. I came to the excited conclusion that Nisa's was the best udon noodle dish I had ever partaken in.
With no hope of finishing it, I ordered a small dish of locally-made ginger ice cream, from Crescent Ridge Dairy. The flavor was sweet and creamy, in no way bitter or overpowering, and I came across small gems of ginger throughout.
Nisa's food was reasonably priced on paper, but an even better value when considering the quality of flavor and attention to presentation of each menu item, the authenticity of the cuisine and the welcoming waitstaff and owner. I took it as a sign when upon exiting Nisa's, I looked down the road and saw VietGrill.
A few days later, I stopped into VietGrill to sample some authentic Vietnamese food. The details – atmosphere, food presentation, service - were forgettable aspects of my lunch at the small fluorescently-lit, hole-in-the-wall eatery. The prices cannot be beat, however, as no single menu item breaches $10 and most fall within the $6 - $8 range. The restaurant's summer rolls were delicious and fresh, the Vietnamese salad was healthy and light with a sweet lemon-sugar zing and the entire meal was homemade and hot from the kitchen.
Though I would not recommend the dine-in experience there, VietGrill is a cheap and delicious option for take-out.
Canton boasts some of the best Asian cuisine I have tasted, and light internet
research reveals that I'm not the only one who is excited about Nisa's Thai and VietGrill. Customers will enjoy a true cultural experience through their meals.