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Meju; Pon Thai Bistro; Revisiting the Elephant Walk

A pan-Asian Week in Reviews.

The Elephant Walk South End
The Elephant Walk South End
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This week, while The Dig chatted with Townsman's Matt Jennings and Metro sipped on that restaurant's craft cocktails, The Boston Globe and Improper Bostonian reviewers picked up their chopsticks.

The Globe's Devra First found the food at Meju in Davis Square to be "so simply tasty" she almost doesn't trust it. "It seems there must be something illicit stirred in to get us all hooked," she writes. It might be the namesake ingredient of this upscale, Korean-inspired eatery, meju. The fermented soybeans create an umami flavor that "communicates directly with the taste buds, bypassing rational thought." Meju's menu changes regularly; First found mushroom bokkeum to be "a simple, smoky stunner," and a soy-grilled short rib galbi dish is "elemental," and when she finishes her pork belly dish, First wonders when she can have more. But the bibimbap, a signature Korean dish, is disappointingly bland at Meju, First writes.

Elsewhere in the Globe's pages this week, Ellen Bhang ruminates on Pon Thai Bistro in the Cheap Eats column. The dishes at the new eatery, which opened four months ago at 213 Washington St. in Brookline Village, are some of the best she's had, Bhang writes, but she finds inconsistencies. With "elegant shreds of the crunchy green fruit," the papaya salad also benefits from the "smoky sweetness" tamarind lends to its sharp lime dressing. The restaurant gets busier on a weekend night, and the appetizers suffer; Bhang finds shumai dumplings and duck confit rolls have unappealingly cooled before they arrived at her table. But standout dishes meet the high bar she found during uncrowded, midday lunch shifts at Pon Thai Bistro. Drunken noodles bring "a delectable buzz of heat," while chicken pad Thai isn't too sweet as the dish often is, in Bhang's opinion, but she did find the noodles "mushier than usual" on one night. With very high highs but a few notable lows, Bhang calls Pon Thai "an emerging gem."

For something a little different, MC Slim JB revisited Elephant Walk for The Improper Bostonian — but the new South End location. The menu at this 25-year-old Cambodian/French fusion restaurant group hasn't stagnated, he finds, with gluten-free items highlighted and half-portions available for family-style sharing. But the Khmer dishes on the menu still provide "lovely comforts." B'baw mouan, a rice soup, is "soothing" with a "welcome smack of fried garlic." While the French dishes on the menu are not the kitchen's strong suit, Slim finds the grilled steak dish bavette à l’échalotte to be "perfectly adequate." The French desserts, on the other hand, are among Elephant Walk's best assets. The classic French options appeal to diners who feel less than adventurous, but those who try the Cambodian offerings might, like Slim, find the traditional flavors muted. "While admittedly still delectable," Slim says the Elephant Walk is a bit too tame overall.

The Elephant Walk (South End)

1415 Washington St, Boston, MA 02118

Meju

243 Elm Street, Somerville, Ma 02144 (978) 852-7901 Visit Website

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