It's hard to imagine anyone getting so incensed about a little green herb, especially one that doesn't transport you to another state of consciousness. But some people despise it so vehemently that they've created a website to document its vileness. At ihatecilantro.com , members recount personal tales of meals, and lives, ruined by a few green sprinkles. But cilantro is that way, like Barry Manilow or opera or chewing tobacco -- you're either repulsed or addicted. With cilantro, we fall happily into the latter camp.
234 Elm St., Somerville
Some experts say cilantro is the world's most ubiquitous herb, since it shows up in both Asian and Latin American cooking. At Namaskar, Davis Square's other Indian restaurant -- Diva, with its new bubble lounge, tends to steal the spotlight -- many dishes are steeped in cilantro. Chicken kothmiri ($13) seems to have piles of it, although we know this more by sight than by taste. We recognize its welcome bite, though, in the spicy Boss Naan ($4), stuffed with garlic, green chilis, onions, mashed potatoes and peas. Owner Charlie Patel invented this untraditional version of Indian bread; its name came from his restaurant nickname: ``Charlie Boss."
1052 Dorchester Ave., Dorchester
It's an odd combination: the smell of fresh French bread baking in a busy Vietnamese deli filled with spring rolls and stir-fried vegetables. But at lunchtime, it's the bahn mi sandwiches that are flying out the door. We're the only soul speaking English, but we follow the crowd in our order: the barbecued pork sandwich ($2.50). The woman behind the counter, assembling sandwiches with uncanny speed, paints the meat with a dark sauce and adds sliced cucumbers, carrots, and whole sprigs of cilantro. And although it is (happily) cilantro-free, the sweet iced coffee is heavenly on a steamy day.
4249 Washington St.,Roslindale
This fast-paced restaurant is more old Roslindale than new, with its plastic menu board and Formica tables. It may masquerade as a pizza joint, but the Mexican food has won undying devotion from burrito-philes. The tacos, made of soft corn tortillas, are served with heaps of cilantro. And the prices are definitely old Roslindale: $2 for most tacos, including steak, chorizo and grilled vegetables; a bean and cheese taco costs $1.90.
177 Tremont St., Boston
When we call to inquire about cilantro on the menu, we are told the chef will, on request, add the herb to any dish. So when we arrive a few days later, we order the spinach and mascarpone ravioli ($20) with cilantro instead of the parsley listed on the menu. A knowing smile appears on the waitress's face: Ah, the crazy cilantro people! But we are pleased with our tweaked, and tastier, ravioli. One of the night's specials -- a whole sea bass ($30) -- also arrives with cilantro sprinkled along its golden, grilled length.
24 Pearl St., Cambridge
Cilantro is popular in Tibetan cuisine but, as in the dishes at Namaskar, the herb loses some of its tang when cooked. The shogo numtak ($4), fried mashed potato appetizers, are a bit bland but rescued by fresh ginger, which outshines the cilantro. The same holds true for the langsha momo ($11.55) -- perhaps the best-known Tibetan dish, featuring hefty steamed dumplings filled with beef, onions and scallions. Cilantro plays a stronger role in the chhu tsel deyngo ($12), fried rice with spinach and watercress, and bits of corn and carrots.
477 Shawmut Ave., Boston
We hear that this inviting new Venezuelan restaurant in the South End is always crowded, so we arrive for a late weekday lunch to avoid the masses. We order a reina pepiada ($6), a hot corn arepa filled with shredded chicken, avocado and traces of cilantro. On a languid summer day, we could while away the afternoon in this little corner restaurant, gazing at the poor souls doomed to walk the blazing sidewalks.