Boston.com — October 8, 2015
by Amanda Hoover
The Pon Gimlet cocktail from Pon Thai Bistro in Brookline is made with ginger and Thai basil, muddled with lime juice, then mixed with gin and ginger liqueur.
BOSTON GLOBE Magazine — June 7, 2015
Where to eat in greater Boston... Top Pick!
by Ellen Bhang, Globe Correspondent
GLOBE MAGAZINE'S TOP PICK...! (with image of Pon's Tuna and Salmon Crudo)
Opened in Brookline Village in 2014, this 32-seat bistro and bar’s standout offerings include papaya salad topped with grilled whole shrimp, and laab duck salad. Don’t let the bland beige looks of tom kha soup deceive you; it is intensely flavored with kaffir lime leaf, galangal, and lemongrass. Drunken noodles with pork also offers a delectable buzz of heat.
Boston Globe — March 24, 2015
by Ellen Bhang, Globe Correspondent
Sivika “Pon” Hunter will be the first to tell you that owning a restaurant is completely different than making dinner for friends. “It’s not just cooking,” she says. “It’s everything. It’s managing lots of details.” When a dishwasher didn’t show up for work, for example, she herself jumped in to clean plates.
Four months have passed since the entrepreneur took the leap from catering parties to launching Pon Thai Bistro, a 32-seat eatery and bar in Brookline Village that bears her nickname. Hunter trained at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts and provides the creative vision for the dishes, cooked up by head chef Kannarisa “Nian” Phohirun, who most recently worked in Thai restaurants in Washington, D.C.
Step inside and you’ll see that lime green and taupe have replaced the red color palette of the former establishment, Stoli Bar & Restaurant. Pendant lighting casts a soft glow on a sweet four-seat bar.
On a weekday there is just a scattering of customers having lunch. Where is everyone? The dishes we try are some of the very best we’ve had. Papaya salad ($10 at lunch, $12 at dinner), topped with two grilled whole shrimp, features elegant threads of the crunchy green fruit, tossed with shreds of carrot, halved grape tomatoes, toasted whole cashews, and green beans that retain their snap. Tamarind, a pod-like fruit popular in Hunter’s home province of Phetchabun, in northern Thailand, lends smoky sweetness to a piquant lime dressing. Don’t let the bland beige looks of tom kha soup ($6, $8) deceive you. This beautifully tart bowl is intensely flavored with kaffir lime leaf, galangal, and lemongrass. Silky oyster mushrooms float in a coconut milk-enriched broth that arrives piping hot.
On a busy weekend evening, every seat is filled and servers struggle to keep up. A cold draft blows in every time the door swings open. Appetizers, not all Thai, show Hunter’s desire to draw from different Asian cuisines. Unfortunately, items like shumai dumplings ($9) arrive lukewarm, as does a plate of duck confit rolls ($10), Chinese-style scallion pancakes wrapped around mild shreds of poultry with a kiss of hoisin sauce. It’s clear that these dishes cooled as they languished, waiting for pick-up from the kitchen.
Fortunately, the Pon gimlet ($10), a gin-and-citrus-based cocktail made with muddled basil, serves as a high point, as does a wine list that features some of our favorite Austrian whites and reds. Libations pair nicely with dishes like a grilled Cornish hen ($16), subtly spiced with turmeric and soy, and pan-seared salmon ($18), a fillet with a mere whisper of the spicy lime sauce advertised on the menu. Sticky rice comes with the hen, jasmine rice with the fish, and both platters sport a simple cabbage slaw.
Standout dishes reach for the zippy, pungent heights we experienced at lunch. Larb duck salad ($16) showcases grilled minced meat, full of umami from Thai fermented fish sauce, infused with lemongrass, cilantro, mint, and diced fresh chiles. Drunken noodles with pork ($14), wide ribbons of rice noodles stir-fried with snow peas, also offers a delectable buzz of heat. Hunter later explains that “drunken” refers not to alcohol but to how the dish (traditionally served fiery) renders one dizzy.
The classic pad Thai (we get ours with chicken, $14), is not too sweet, unlike most other Thai places in town. The night we visit, the delicate rice noodles have cooked minutes too long, resulting in a mushier-than-usual texture.
Two servers wait on us, and often seem to work at cross-purposes. Extra cocktails end up on our bill, and while it is later corrected, one vigilant server would have been better.
Pon Thai Bistro has a few growing pains. Think of the spot as an emerging gem.
Ellen Bhang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
BOSTON GLOBE — METRO WEST, MARCH 15, 2015
by Rachel Lebeaux, Globe Correspondent
IN THE KITCHEN Sivika “Pon” Hunter, the owner and head chef at Pon Thai Bistro in Brookline, hails from Phetchabun in northern Thailand, and moved to the United States more than 20 years ago. She hadn’t cooked much back home. “Usually, the oldest in your family would cook for your parents, and I was the youngest,” she said. But she was always interested in food, so she enrolled in a Cambridge School of Culinary Arts course dedicated to French and Italian cooking, and worked as a personal chef and shared her creations with friends. Pon Thai Bistro is her first restaurant.
THE LOCALE The restaurant opened in mid-November on Washington Street in Brookline Village, just around the corner from the neighborhood’s MBTA station. A dozen or so tables and four seats at the bar constitute the simple, inviting space. On the snowy evening we visited, service was eager, and Hunter visited the table to answer questions about a particular dish, and then again to gauge our satisfaction after the meal.
ON THE MENU Hunter keeps her menu short so as not to overwhelm diners. She focuses on fresh ingredients and makes nearly everything from scratch. “The food has this freshness to it so that you don’t feel heavy,” she said.
The restaurant is “a little more upscale” than some of the outstanding, mainly takeout Thai places in the area, Hunter said, which one sees both in the prices and the drink menu, featuring such tipples as the Pon Gimlet ($11), with gin, ginger-flavored liqueur, lime juice, and muddled basil and ginger. There are also wines and beers selected specifically to pair with Thai food.
Hunter hints at her French-cooking background in the name of the restaurant, and it also surfaces on the menu, most notably in the duck dishes. Duck confit rolls ($10), filled with cucumber, scallions and chili-garlic sauce, are quite popular, Hunter said. Duck appears again in red curry ($24), with a duo of seared duck breast and a confit leg, as well as laab duck ($16), where it’s minced and tossed with mint, cilantro, lemongrass, and fried shallots.
For appetizers, we chose the chicken eggrolls ($9), drawn by shiitake and wood-ear mushrooms, leeks, shredded carrot, and cellophane noodles stuffed into crispy, golden wrappers. They’re well-seasoned and, dunked in chili-lime sauce, sublime. The tom yum shrimp soup ($9) maintains a nice, balanced broth of lime juice and tamarind, suffused with galangal and lemongrass, and speckled with mushrooms and cilantro. The three shrimp we got were nice; we would have liked more.
Hunter says the wok-fried spicy basil eggplant ($13) is popular with vegetarians, and even the nonvegetarians in our group concurred that it might have been the dish of the night. Flash-fried alongside firm tofu triangles, oblong slices of purple Chinese eggplant absorb the spicy soy- and garlic-based sauce, and are brightened by pungent Thai basil.
Seafood curry ($20) comes replete with shrimp, squid, and bay scallops. We ordered the red (as opposed to green) version; the color is more muted than some, but the chili flavor is unmistakable. The accompanying vegetable mélange, including crisp peapods, green beans, red peppers and cauliflower, is perfect, and a big scoop of jasmine rice cuts the mild heat of the dish nicely.
That spicy heat ratchets up with the drunken noodles; in our order, large gulf shrimp ($16) nestle with shiitake mushrooms, onions, peapods, Thai basil, and chili between swaths of broad, flat rice noodles cooked to chewy perfection.
Portion sizes are ample: In our group, two appetizers and three entrees fed four with some leftovers to spare. We were full after the meal, but vanilla-bean coconut rice with mango ($7) sounded like a dessert to return for.
Improper Bostonian, December 10-23, 2014
Good Eats: Mighty Duck
by Elizabeth Bomze
Pon Thai Bistro, the restaurant that Sivika "Pon" Hunter opened last month, doesn't' simply fill the Thai Cuisine void in Brookline Village — it happily strays off the grid of conventional Bangkok-style dishes. To wit, her red curry, where she doubles up on the duck with a crisp-seared breast and an ultra-tender confit leg, a preparation that speaks to her Thai roots and her classic French training at Cambridge Culinary. The curry paste is some of the best around (fragrant and fiery with galangal, lime leaves and chilies), and the coconut milk-enriched gravy is loaded with butternut squash, crisp-tender caulfiflower, snow peas and red bell pepper.