I had a mixed experience at Dakzen, a Thai street-food restaurant in Davis Square. Still, I’m reluctant to describe it as such. I think it’s important to explore why this is.
I stated in my last column that one of the missions of this series would be the promotion of restaurants in the Medford/Somerville area that often go un-promoted. Covid undoubtedly makes this a more dire task. Of course, food is supposed to be fun. Reading about it should make you hungry, not pensive. But achieving this doesn’t require sugar-coating. And why should it? All restaurant experiences are mixed, whether that be the result of funny tasting water or a bad date souring the mood.
This is all to say that my mixed experience came from a combination of factors — only some of which can be attributed to the restaurant itself. And I think that’s okay. After all, I am choosing the kinds of spots that are charmingly imperfect.
Last Monday was a day of rainfall. Tire tsunamis rushed the sidewalks, and umbrellas cloaked campus crosswalks. I happily found that Dakzen was open till 2 a.m., so I pregamed my homework with Cajun fries from the Commons and opted for a late dinner. My goal was to secure a seat at the restaurant window on my own, try a couple things and watch the reflections of headlights pass over growing puddles in Davis Square. I’m a sucker for solo dinners, and there’s something about a restaurant after 9 p.m. that’s attractively unnerving.
Unfortunately, entering Dakzen, it quickly became clear that the possibility of dining in had expired. I can confirm that it’s a great place to sit during normal hours of the day. Still, I can only be slightly disappointed that restaurants are not following the timeline of my bizarre eating habits. I reluctantly ordered takeout and waited in an alley next door for my noodles.
The upside of takeout is the ability to set your own scene. I chose a soundtrack of Fleetwood Mac and The Smiths and laid out my spread on the kitchen table: pad-see-ew with chicken and ba-mee-moo-dang, which came with a side of chicken broth. The total came to around $20 for the two dishes, which I consider a decent steal.
The pad-see-ew was definitely my favorite of the two. The dish consists of thick rice noodles and some egg and vegetables in a dark oyster sauce. This sauce was a lot better than I’ve had elsewhere. It was rich and sweet, without an overpowering saltiness, and the noodles weren’t overcooked, as is usual when dealing with to-go containers. The chicken was pretty standard and there wasn’t much broccoli or other vegetables, but the sprinkle of white pepper provided a nice finishing touch. Overall, I would definitely order this again. It satisfied a craving I didn’t know I had.
The ba-mee-moo-dang had a lot more components. For $9, you get a serving of egg noodles topped with bok choy, roast pork, crispy pork belly, a boiled egg and two shrimp wontons, all topped with a sweet and salty BBQ sauce. Frankly, I didn’t know where to begin — what to dip in the broth and what to combine into a single bite. In any case, all the different toppings were pretty tasty. The roast pork was really flavorful and tender, and the bok choy was a delicious spoonful with the broth. The dumplings were a touch overcooked, but if you put them in the broth, it was practically a free wonton soup. However, I wasn’t really a fan of the crispy pork. It was fried solid, and the meat was lost in the process. It was a little better if you dipped it in the broth to soften it, but it mostly felt like a good bit of pork belly gone to waste. On a better note, I love any form of any egg on top of anything, so I ate that last as a treat for doing all my homework.
I probably wouldn’t order this second dish again, but I have no doubt that I’ll be back at Dakzen in the next couple weeks, simply because there are so many more things to try. For $9–11 a dish, I’m willing to take that leap of faith and hope for pad-see-ew quality and a seat at the window on a rainy night.