Sweet and spicy at Mint
Mint Cafe is an attractive restaurant in Norwood Center, and its menu looks inviting. But it’s not a good sign when the appetizers arrive lukewarm. Shumai ($5.50), small shrimp dumplings, are tender and still tasty, but would have been better with the steam still rising from them. Golden bags ($6.95, below) - little pouches made from tofu skin, which are deep-fried and stuffed with ground shrimp, water chestnuts, and mushrooms - really need to be served hot. They should also be crispier.
Only the chicken satay ($6.95) is really satisfying: tender skewered meat, nicely marinated and grilled and served with a creamy peanut sauce.
The cafe is a large space with a burbling fountain, a long bar, a goldfish pool, and the requisite Buddha. But the service, though friendly, could be more efficient.
The menu at the Mint is mostly Thai, with a few Korean dishes thrown in. The Songtachalert family owns five Asian restaurants in the Boston suburbs. In Bangkok, the parents owned a restaurant, but brought the family here in 1984 and started over in the business. Two years ago, they retired and returned to Bangkok, and their children run the restaurants.
We had better luck with the entrees. Chef’s crispy duck ($16.95) is a half duck, crunchy in a sweet glaze, moist and succulent. Portions here are generous; this dish comes with squash, broccoli, and carrots. Mango curry chicken ($13.95) is a well-balanced dish, fiery, with diced potato, pineapple, onion, and carrot, which help cut the heat.
Tuna Yang ($15.95), which is a special, is cooked rare in the middle, singed on the outside, just the way we like tuna. We love the crazy noodle dish ($9.25), the Mint’s take on pad see ew, a traditional Thai dish with wide rice noodles, chicken, spinach, and shrimp. It’s both sweet and spicy with a lot of flavor.
Out of curiosity we order the famous Korean bibimbap ($13.95). The rice bowl is scattered with bell peppers, cucumbers, carrots, and shiitake mushrooms, with chunks of chicken. But the dish is a bit bland and dry. Why does this Thai restaurant offer Korean food? “The customers want a variety, they want a little bit of everything,’’ says Ohm Songtachalert, who runs the restaurants with a brother and sister. Until recently, the Mint also offered sushi.
Customers can custom-build their dishes ($9.95 to $13.95), something we did not try. You choose a type of meat or seafood, a type of rice or noodle, and a sauce (there are five offerings, from ginger to basil to sweet and sour). The cooks will mix them together in a stir-fry.
For dessert, there’s an ice cream smoothie ($3.50), or, if you’re smart, get a hot fudge sundae at the ice cream parlor across the street.