Restaurant Review – Fresh Side, Amherst, MA
by Marcia Simon
Fresh Side, 39 South Pleasant St., Amherst, MA
I love the vibe at Fresh Side, a cozy and eclectic “Asian Fusion” restaurant in the center of Amherst. It’s comfortable, inexpensive, has a full bar menu including lots of craft beers and also a full menu page of nonalcoholic hot and iced teas and coffee drinks.
This restaurant is often overlooked, and therefore not as crowded, as some of the more popular restaurants in town because it’s not in the main string of eateries like Judie’s and the High Horse. You’ll find it hidden unobtrusively, just one block down, overlooking the green where you often see students from the Five College Area soaking up the sun and young children running around playfully. In warmer weather, the outside tables are inviting, but on this early evening on a chilly mid- April day, inside fit the bill.
The T-Rolls seem to be the local favorites, and for good reasons – the taste and the price. These are like Asian-style mini wraps and can be mixed and matched like tapas for sampling and sharing. You get either 2 rolls for $3 or $4, or 4 rolls for 5 or $6.50 depending on your menu selection. I selected the simple Edo Rice T-Roll (rice, sweet peanut sauce, cilantro, crushed peanuts). My eating companion chose the Basil Beef (cabbage, peanut, crispy shallot, sesame seed, Thai basil, peanut-hoisin sauce on the side), spicy chicken (curry chicken salad with cabbage, onion, a dash of cayenne pepper) and seaweed rice (rice, teriyaki sauce, crispy shallots, peanuts, roasted seaweed, sesame seed). He had a total of 6 rolls and felt sufficiently filled for the evening.
Along with my two rolls, I ordered a bowl (big) of coconut noodle soup (cellophane noodle, garden vegetables in light coconut curry broth) with tofu. Not too spicy, not too rich. The vegetables this day were young string beans, sliced carrots and broccoli. I needed a knife and fork to cut the perfectly cooked vegetables. (I really wanted to try the slow roasted Asian-style pork ribs, but wasn’t in a mood for meat on this particular day.)
Rather than the usual glass of wine I order with dinner, I opted for the hot Moroccan mint tea (gunpowder tea mixed with fresh mint and honey) served in a lovely teapot. It was more than I could finish. My companion ordered the French press coffee, which gave him two full cups.
Fresh Side offers a large selection of noodle plates, rice plates, and plenty of choices for vegans, meat eaters and those following a gluten-free diet. There’s something here for everyone – even the frugal college student looking for a hip atmosphere for a dinner date.