Review: Think Tank Bistrotheque

Southeast Asian treats among some head-scratchers
By ROBERT NADEAU  |  August 17, 2011
2.0 2.0 Stars

On a lower level, though, the Seoul burger ($12) was just a burger with a fried egg, where I had got myself worked up about the idea of Korean bulgogi marinade. Side dishes included a clear loser of a corn salad ($4) — I'd already had better supermarket corn this summer. And a game try at sweet-potato fries ($5) ended up as usual: limp, greasy, and burnt at the edges. Baby bok choy ($5) was fine, but had too much red pepper.

This is a good place to drink, with some interesting beers and some offbeat wines. A glass of Villa Wolfe rose de pinot noir ($8) was lovely against all kinds of food. But the real opportunities are in the drink menu devised by Brother Cleve of the lamented B-Side Lounge. His "black Manhattan" ($9) is light on the muddled fruit and strong on barrel-aged bitters and sweet-sour liqueur, producing a shifting series of sour and bitter impressions out of standard rye whiskey. A pomegranate lime rickey ($9) is devised with Vietnamese gin, pomegranate, soda, and fresh lime juice. This makes it a very dry drink, on a menu of slings that should be perfect for hot nights outside. They also do a terrific cup of decaf coffee ($2.50).

As for desserts, "coffee and doughnuts" ($7) is excellent coffee-chocolate mousse served with three homemade sinkers so dense they could be repurposed as ninja weapons. Nix. The "crispy banana split" ($7) is actually three bananas fried in egg-roll skins, with lots of whipped cream and sprinkles, some of which are bits of star anise. You were expecting ice cream?

On two visits to Think Tank — both at the same table — service was very different. Visit One was a dream; Visit Two was a nightmare, with a long pause from when we sat down with menus to when our order was taken, and multiple servers asking about dessert as if we were somehow included in three stations.

The spaces are odd and oddly defined. The inner sanctum is intended to be a dive bar with a '60s-'70s nostalgia vibe, which is like wearing Doc Martens and tie-dyes in the same outfit. The dining room proper is curtained off under glass and might be a greenhouse by day, but after dark, it's just loud and reminds you of being underground. If it doesn't rain, there are outside tables, but they, too, are below plaza level.

Robert Nadeau can be reached at robtnadeau@aol.com.

Think Tank Bistrotheque, located at 1A Kendall Square in Cambridge, is open Monday - Thursday from 4 pm - 1 am and Friday - Saturday from 5 pm - 2 am. Call 617.500.3031

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