Given its location directly across from the bustling Belmont L stop, I was not expecting Azha (pronounced like the continent) to be a serene spot. Oh, how wrong I was. From the earth tones to the bamboo accents to the dangling paper lanterns, every detail contributes to the peaceful vibe at this family-owned and operated Thai eatery. The warmth and attentiveness of the service is the icing on the cake (or, in this case, the oft-requested fish cake). But ultimately, it's the yummy food and beyond reasonable prices (nothing costs more than $8) that will keep you coming back.
Get the party (in your mouth) started with an order of satay, crab rangoon or, my personal favorite, the fresh rolls: crab meat, lettuce, basil and carrot wrapped in rice paper and served with a tamarind peanut sauce. There are lots of soups and salads to choose from, and some are substantial enough to be a meal.
If you like seafood, you'll be a happy camper. A fillet of salmon or cod can be sauteed in garlic sauce, ginger sauce or a spicy sauce with hot peppers and basil leaves. Any entree on the menu is prepared with your choice of beef, pork, chicken or shrimp, and most dishes can be made vegetarian-style with tofu or veggies. Seasonal specials are available, and many of them end up being so popular that they have to be added to the regular menu.
End your meal on a sweet note with a scoop of tropical ice cream, as delicious as it is beautiful, for only $2. And don't be afraid to try unusual flavors like avocado, red bean or purple yam (of course, there are more familiar options like mango and green tea, too). BYOB.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Natalie Goldstein