In Buddhism, the Bodhi tree is associated with the path to enlightenment, making it the perfect symbol for a wonderful Thai restaurant in Hampden that offers a gateway to the treasures of the country’s cuisine.
Opened by the team that runs the bustling, tiny Mount Vernon eatery Khun Nine Thai, Bodhi Corner focuses on Northeast Thai cooking. Many of the wooden tables in the small, dimly lit dining room were filled when we visited recently, but the restaurant still exuded a calm, peaceful feeling. The menu is large and flexible, allowing for tofu, vegetables, chicken, pork, beef, or shrimp to be added to most dishes.
Among the appetizers we tried, the Kanom Jeeb stood out. The steamed dumplings, stuffed with shrimp, minced pork, water chestnuts, and shiitake mushrooms, come in an egg noodle wrapper and look like pieces of sushi. It’s a fun visual take on a classic Asian dish. The Thai sausage, unfortunately, was far too dry, and an order of four skinny fried shrimp rolls were decidedly unremarkable.
Where Bodhi Corner truly excels is in the complexity of its entrees, both the Thai staples that many Americans are familiar with and other dishes that many may not have encountered. Two of the standards, drunken noodles (which we ordered with large, tail-on shrimp) and basil fried rice (packed with chicken), outshined the run-of-the-mill varieties at most other spots around town, both in depth of flavor and precision of preparation. Although with three peppers printed next to them on the menu, we were fearing/hoping for even more heat. Still, each left us with a satisfyingly runny nose.
The highlight of our meals was the Khao Soi curry, a large bowl of egg noodles, pickled cabbage, and scallions topped with crispy noodles and red onions. A medium-bodied curry with the consistency of soup, it was rich without being filling, spicy without obscuring its layers of flavor. The duck Kra Prow was also a revelation. Several pieces of the baked bird are served with steamed broccoli and crispy basil in a reddish chili basil sauce that’s equal parts sweet and savory. Again, here the melding of taste sensations worked well.
After leaving, we resolved to soon try one of the seven vegan dishes, which include a version of crab fried rice and duck curry. Next time, we’ll also know to bring a bottle of wine or a few beers—Bodhi Corner is BYOB. (We yearned to sip a cold Singha, particularly with some of the spicier dishes.) We’ll return more enlightened.
BODHI CORNER 3500 Chestnut Ave., 443-438-4068. HOURS: Mon.-Thurs. 11 a.m.-3 p.m., 4:30-10 p.m.; Fri. 11 a.m.-3 p.m., 4:30-10:30 p.m.; Sat. 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m.; Sun. 11 a.m.-10 p.m. PRICES: Appetizers: $5-10; Entrees: $13-30; Desserts: $7-11. AMBIANCE: Relaxed.