Rice, Rice, Maybe

For the Moment

We've been to Singha House on numerous occasions, and we will be back again. Because we've bought into its version of Thai food. And it's one of the closest restaurants to the Mather-Dunster-Leverett outpost.

The decor is a phantasmagoric wave of colors straight out of Sonny and Crockett's backyard. There are the hot-pink napkins placed on the nearly fluorescent green tables, and the random rainbow-colored paintings hanging on the dramatically white walls. It's almost as though they were trying to simulate how Pepto-Bismol works inside one's stomach. The whole mess is just too damn loud. But then again, the spicy, fruity food actually blends in quite nicely with this decor.

Okay, the appetizers aren't all that phantasmagoric. The chicken and beef satay, sliced nice and thin on skewers, are served with a not-too-mild peanut sauce and a sweet-and-sour cucumber sauce, all quite recommended. Go with the beef if you want the extra flavor, but stick with the chicken (always white meat) if you're one of those sandal-wearing, granola-munching health freaks. The Thai Sticks are a bountiful but bland batch of veggies fried in batter, not worth it unless you're starving. The Tod Mun shrimp and fish cake is kind of chewy and fishy. Try it with the peanut sauce from the satay (and you will get the satay). The soups are watered down--don't bother.

The main courses are more interesting. Much of the menu is based on the millions of mix-and-match dishes--four types of curries, four kinds of meat, a good dozen vegetable and fruit combos. Watch out for the spice ratings next to each dish; even one pepper may be too much for the weaker-stomached. Bring lots of tissues and ask for water often. We recommend the yellow curry, especially if you like pineapple. Finding pineapple isn't a problem on this menu, however. Take, for instance, the Chicken Tropical, served in a half-pineapple shell and just bursting with the two obvious ingredients. Our wimpy friend orders it without the chili every time he goes.

Now, you'll probably tell yourself: we're missing one little thing here. Some rice would be very nice. But beware of price: they charge a dollar per little bowl, never enough for an entree. You'll get your check, you'll see the "rice" listed for a buck, and you'll be as bitter as this next paragraph...

Feeling independent? You don't have to follow the mix-and-match formula, if you order from another part of the menu. The Shrimp Lime Salad was not anything we had expected. Instead of fresh, unadulterated shrimp under a zesty citrus shower complemented by crisp green lettuce (this is how it's usually prepared in Asia,) it was suffocating in a coagulated spicy red paste. Abominable! Speaking of abominations, both the Pears and Prawns and the Pleasing Garlic, despite the clever appellations, should be chucked from the menu.

This is not to say that all the non-do-it-yourself dishes sucked. Besides the Chicken Tropical, there was this one dish, (just can't remember the name..."Trio" something) with a terrific plum sauce on top of pork, chicken, beef, snowpeas, babycorn, and, of course, pineapple. Another dish with a mysterious name is a big fish in a spicy sauce. This description could fit any number of dishes on the menu, but it really was good. Truthfully, you're probably better off choosing from the mix-your-own-entree section.

Dessert consists of either lychees or exotic-flavored icecreams. To clear your sinuses, get a scoop of ginger. For that authentic tropical experience, get the coconut. For some actually sinful desserts, go elsewhere.

We still can't get over the price Singha charges for a mere bowl of rice ($1!!!). But even with the rice-inflated check, the putrid decor, and the occasional unsatisfactory dish, Singha House is more than good enough for Harvard Square's low cuisine standards.

Restaurant Review

by CHUI-YEE LEE & ADAM SONFIELD

This week's restaurant:

Singha House

1105 Mass Ave. (towards Central Sq.) Tel 864-5154 or 864-5157