Most Asian restaurants try to prove their authenticity by providing as much Asian (or "Asian") atmosphere as possible. Fortunately, Pepper Skyís Thai Sensation takes a different tack. Chagall-esque oil paintings by local artist Jeffrey Konrad dominate the interior; during a recent lunchtime visit, Billie Holiday was the musical offering. If people bustling to or from Mass Ave were to steal a quick glance inside, they might conclude that Central Square has a new coffee shop, not a new Thai restaurant.
But Pepper Skyís is a Thai restaurant ó one that, for the most part, backs up the lofty boast contained in its name. For an appetizer, my companion and I tried the fried kui chai, or chive dumplings ($4.95/lunch; $5.95/dinner). They were an excellent choice ó three hefty, golden-brown disks marked by extreme doughiness and prolific chive filling. The massaman curry ($6.95/lunch; $10.95/dinner), one of our two main-course selections, was admirably balanced: sweet but not cloying, and light enough, despite its coconut-milk base, to enhance the flavors of its constituent parts (onion, sweet potato, peanuts, green and red pepper) instead of overpowering them.
Our second entrée, drunken noodles with tofu ($6.95/lunch; $8.95/dinner), required a special request: for some reason, the menu doesnít offer a tofu option with this particular item. The waitress happily complied, however, and the result was quite good. The thick, wide rice noodles that anchor the dish were fresh and satisfyingly chewy, while the assorted vegetables (corn, green and red peppers, and green beans, with a generous portion of basil) were well prepared and retained a nice measure of crispness. The high heat level might be too much for delicate palates, but hardier diners should find the spiciness pleasantly taxing. It must be said, however, that the tofu could have been a little firmer.
But thatís a minor gripe. Between its ambiance, its refreshingly low prices, and the overall high quality of its food, Pepper Skyís seems destined to become a neighborhood institution. Right now, word hasnít gotten out, so itís still easy to get one of the restaurantís few tables. Get there soon, because thatís bound to change.
Pepper Skyís Thai Sensation, located at 20 Pearl Street, in Cambridge, is open Monday through Friday, from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m.; on Saturday, from noon to 3 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m.; and on Sunday, from 5 to 10 p.m. Call (617) 492-2541.