These are summer rolls as I’ve never had summer rolls: Sliced and served like chic sushi rolls, both crisp lettuce and a translucent sheath of rice paper secure pork and shrimp, shredded carrot and cucumber, leaves of mint and Thai basil. There’s a dollop of hot sauce and a flourish of crunchies on top. All told, you get pops of tastes that cool and heat, of textures silky-smooth and crackly-crisp, of collaborations between meat and fish, vegetables and starch.
It’s one terrific way to start things off at Kuay Tiew Noodles & More in downtown Somerville, a new Thai restaurant owned by Thana Sermsuwan and Pakachon “Chon” Suthee that’s had, to be honest, something of a rocky road since its birth last year.
Early in January, when a deep freeze ran head on into a snowstorm, Kuay Tiew’s pipes burst and caused substantial damage to the restaurant that had been open mere months. Repairs and renovation took weeks; the toddler of a restaurant had to be shuttered just as word was getting around that a Thai spot sporting both traditional dishes and creative takes on the norm was taking root.
Well, Kuay Tiew is back, and signature dishes, such as its inventive summer roll, sashay from kitchen to table along with mee krob, a classic that pairs brittle fried noodles with a sweet-sour sauce that leans sour, lifting shrimp out of the doldrums and playing nicely with shards of musky basil.
I’ve rarely had a Thai papaya salad that’s fresher, thanks to a generous squirt of lime juice that mingles with pings of chilies and garlic. But, wait, there’s more. It’s topped (luxuriously) with shrimp and given a little on-the-side basket of coconut rice that, if you can resist downing on its own, is spot-on mixed with the papaya and its pals.
Kuay Tiew isn’t your average storefront Thai. The mainstay Kuay Tiew gai is a many-layered soup constructed on the shoulders of a potent broth: Here, chilies infuse the base that happily leeches into ground chicken, sprouts and soft rice noodles. A dish I’ve had elsewhere that’s been, at best, ho-hum, is revived here by virtue of spiced-right crumbles of pork countered by lightly pickled vegetables and a fried egg that oozes yolk when poked. It’s the kratiem, and—by the way—it’s united by a garlic sauce neither gooey nor sweet nor anything out of sync with the savory stuff it aims to please.
Even the pad kee maow, with its flat rice noodles tossed with peppers and onions, egg, herbs and, in our case, more shrimp, has a brightness that gives it a leg up on the competition.
Go ahead and get the duck, which is braised and simply served splayed on a plate with wedges of hard-cooked egg and a tiny stack of yu choy.
I wasn’t keen on the scoop of white rice plopped on the plate; it seemed less cared for than everything else that came out of Kuay Tiew’s kitchen. But, that’s a pretty minor gripe.
After all, I had no interest in dessert, none whatsoever, until a deep-sided oval plate appeared with a chain gang of pan-fried roti wrapped around hunks of banana smeared with Nutella…and a couple scoops of Nutella ice cream. Done, gone, vamoosed. Darn delicious slam-dunks full-belly syndrome any time.
Kuay Tiew Noodles & More, 42 West Main Street in Somerville. BYO. Open daily for lunch and dinner, except Sunday. 908-393-9555; ktsomerville.com.