Dakzen [Davis Square, Somerville, MA]


#1

We popped in for a quick dinner last night during Dakzen’s soft opening week. They have a slightly limited soft opening menu- actually, plenty of options and they should stick with what they have, and do it well, rather than branch out in the future. The space has been nicely redone, although I’m not sure how some diners will feel about the backless stools as the only option for seating. Ordering is at the counter and your number is called when food is ready. It wasn’t clear to me if that’s the model they’ll continue with or if table service is planned for the future.

Since we didn’t have sprouts with us, we went for two spicy dishes to share: khao soi and pad kee mao. I like that their menu gives a brief description of each dish, including what region it’s from or famous in. The khao soi was all in one bowl and shredded chicken was the protein used. The broth was delicious with a perfect heat level. I liked the hard boiled egg, which is not something present in either Cha Yen or Pok Pok NY’s khao soi- my two barometers of excellent Thai food. I was not as thrilled that everything was pre-mixed; I’m used to pickled radish and onion and sometimes other toppings being on the side to be added at the table. The shredded chicken was a little odd- it might have been poached and seemed a bit wet and flavorless. I would have preferred a choice of protein or at least a more flavorful chicken. Crunchy noodles on top and egg noodles in the broth were both good. Celery in the broth was a bit out of place but not a deal breaker.

The pad kee mao was a bit heavy on the very-lightly-cooked onions for me. I am always disappointed when a dish consists of a high percentage of mostly raw onions and/or bell peppers- I don’t regard them as a main ingredient, and feel like the chef is trying to skimp elsewhere. I’ve had this complaint about Dumpling Kitchen in Somerville as well, and actually don’t order from them any more because of it. Noodles and chicken (here we were given a choice of protein and I froze and went with chicken because I had been planning to pick beef in the khao soi) were fine. I liked the copious sprays of green peppercorns stir fried along in the dish.

We’ll definitely be back to try a wider variety of dishes, and I’m cheering for these guys because that space has been occupied by such sub-par Thai restaurants for so long. I’ll be curious to see how they do with quantities for take out; we did finish every scrap on our plates and then I had to take my dining companion out for a huge ice cream sundae to top off his calories lest he run out of fuel before the next meal. It was either that or shots of olive oil like they do in base camp on Everest. (Sadly, I never need to top off my calories). Rambling onwards, that’s just to say the quantities seemed small for the price and we would have needed 3 entrees to fill the two of us up for dinner. Curious to hear others’ experiences.


#2

Actually, I just looked at my receipt and want to amend my assessment- the price was only $8.95 for each dish, so price was low and quantities were commensurate. Lunch portion-ish in my opinion, but not overpriced.


#3

Went back today with my 2 sprouts and let them pick. The youngsters require pad thai and pad see yu, so that’s what we went with, chicken for both thank you very much. I added a Ba Mee Moo Dang, which is not a dish I’m familiar with. I really liked their pad thai and pad see yu- both solid versions. Since everything we got was mild in deference to the sprouts, I also helped myself to copious chili flakes and chili vinegar from the table-top spice set. The Moo Dang was sweet for my taste, but my youngest loved it and ate all the egg noodles and most of the chinese broccoli. She left the crispy pork belly which was too tough to chew for all of us, unfortunately. The portions are not huge, but the prices seem fair and I actually preferred these noodle dishes to the foods we tried on our first visit. I’ll be back and sticking with noodles!


#4

this is one thing I really like about this place. They have those chili flakes, the chili/garlic/vinegar thing that I think is for the boat noodles, pickled jalapeno, a chili-fish sauce thing and a house made toasted chili oil. There’s also sugar, I guess, which I’d never add to anything but maybe some like. It’s just a good selection of add ons to tailor your food with.


(Denise) #5

Devra First is enthusiastic about DakZen and I thought you might enjoy reading.


(Peter Sward) #6

I love that place.

/Peter


#7

yeah, it’s good.


#8

Thanks for posting. I’ve been meaning to try it, but have not had a chance.

I especially liked the comment in the review that said that there no interchangeable proteins. It’s a particular irritant to me when restaurants – Indian ones are often big offenders – offer a grid approach to their food: pick a sauce from this column (vindaloo, korma, whatever) and a protein from that row (chicken, beef, whatever). Since the two are clearly not cooked together, simply mixed and heated, the dishes always lack the complexity and depth you get from, say, a long, slow simmer of beef with spices. Worse, no traditional spicing is meant to go with everything. Particular spice combinations were developed for chicken dishes, others for fish, etc., and it’s a travesty to allow a mix-and-match.

It’s thrilling to hear that Dakzen does not do this.


#9

Actually, all the stir fry items are listed with “your choice of meat” per their menu, and when I’ve eaten there I’ve been asked what protein I want. However, they are cooking each dish to order so avoiding the Indian food-add-a-sauce-swish-repeat that is so common.


#10

Yes, I agree, stir fries are a different matter from sauced dishes.

Here, too, though my objections are slighter, I would argue that the choice of other ingredients ought to be connected to the choice of protein – not everything marries well with everything.


#11

Good gawd. We had a late lunch at DakZen today and man, it hit the spot. Just by chance, we ordered the same 2 dishes as @Parsnipity on her first visit, except I chose tofu for my khao soi. Dang if that wasn’t one of the best bowls of khao soi I’ve ever had stateside (I had the Pok Pok Portland version years ago and it was really good). B had the chicken pad kee mao and honestly, I didn’t expect much, but he offered me a taste and it had wok hei which most Westernized versions of this dish lack. And HEAT. Both dishes had actual heat (and not just gratuitous, but really adding to our enjoyment of both dishes). We found a sprig of the green peppercorns in the pad kee mao that Parsnipity mentioned in her review. We did not even have to touch the chili paste or the prik nam pla that are offered on the utensils table.

I cannot wait to go back. It also reminded me that I still haven’t tried the khao soi at Thana Thai in Arlington, which is a bit more convenient for us. Gotta queue that one back up again.


#12

I heard somewhere (on FB, maybe?) that this place had a recent change in ownership. If that’s true, I’m curious to hear how it’s holding up…


(Peter Sward) #13

There is no khao soi on the online menu for Thana Thai.


#14

That’s odd. I’ve had it more than once when dining in. I seem to recall it being under a “house specialties” category and perhaps that doesn’t translate onto the online menu? Or perhaps the change of ownership mentioned above has resulted in a change of menu.


#15

The khao soi at Dakzen made Devra First’s top ten dishes of 2018. Hope that is not behind a firewall. If so I will summarize the list.


#16

I wasn’t able to get to it, so posting the list would be much appreciated. Thanks.


#17

Made it a new topic here: Devra First: Here are 10 dishes I was thankful for in 2018 [Boston, MA]