Southeast Asia is close to Tiffani Faison’s heart—it’s where she spent a five-week vacation with her now wife when their relationship was just getting serious. And now the region’s cuisine is at the heart of her second restaurant, Tiger Mama, slated to open in mid-December in the Fenway neighborhood, a few doors down from Sweet Cheeks Q on Boylston Street.
“For me, done well, it’s the best food in the world,” says Faison, who’s debuting a menu of about 50 dishes split into seven categories: snacks, cold and fresh, crispy and spicy, broths and curries, rich and earthy, noodles and rice, and banquet. While it may be tough to match the level of fervor surrounding Sweet Cheeks’ biscuits, favorites are expected to include the crispy papaya salad with crispy morning glory, mint and a tomato chili vinaigrette as well as the banh xeo, a Hanoi-style crepe with spicy ground shrimp, herbs and lettuce, served with nuoc cham. Lively presentations feature in plates like the shrimp Saigon, with grilled and chilled shrimp marinated in coconut milk and served with fish sauce, garlic and tomatoes on a coconut shell.
“We’re swinging for the fences in some of the presentations. We’re not trying to be subtle,” Faison says. “It looks like vacation, and it should feel like vacation.”
The 135-seat restaurant also has a tropical vacation vibe. The frame of a long-tail boat hangs over a bar in the front left area, while tables, banquettes and a jungle-like wall full of herbs fill the space leading to the back. That rear section includes a hightop communal table in the open kitchen and a dressed-up Tiki bar that’ll be doling out Tiki cocktails in addition to a wine list full of food-friendly bottles such as dry rieslings.
Faison was initially reluctant about the location, which had seen three other restaurants close in the past 5 years. But she eventually agreed, giving back 1,500 square feet of space in the front along Boylston Street to make the room more manageable.
“Everyone who walked in walked to the left, and it was impossible to get anyone in the back. … We built a second bar in the back to get a lot of energy back there, and we opened up the kitchen and put in a communal hightop table so people will be sitting in the kitchen with us. It’s the idea of the physical space and the menu giving people varied experiences to come back for,” Faison says. “When we first started this, I said, ‘This wouldn’t be the place I choose.’ But now I love it.”
Tiger Mama 1363 Boylston St., Boston (617-425-6262) tigermamaboston.com