February 15, 2017
What started as a sushi spot with only a few noodle dishes has grown into one of Washington’s most alluring Thai restaurants. If you’re looking for pad Thai, don’t bother. Chef Jeeraporn Poksupthong proudly avoids the Americanized carryout staple in favor of the spicy, funky, sour flavors of her home country. Ease in with khao soi gai, a rich chicken-coconut curry with egg noodles and pickled cabbage, or the vermicelli in chili-peanut sauce with ground chicken and shrimp. The menu still advertises sushi, but the best dishes pay homage to the chef’s heritage. Inexpensive.
Also great: lotus root with grilled-shrimp salad; crispy rice cakes with chicken and shrimp; chicken stuffed in tapioca skin; northern pork curry with pickled garlic.
April 6, 2017
Washington City Paper - Laura Hayes
Tom Yum Noodle Soup at Baan Thai
Not for the flavor averse, this soup contains roasted pork, ground chicken, pork rinds for crunch, pickled jalapenos, green onions, noodles, and a broth with so much heat, tang, and funk that it almost tastes like anger feels—in a good way. You’ll think, “There’s no way I’ll be able to finish this generous dish,” but you will because of umami’s magical powers. As an added bonus, the tom yum noodle soup travels well, should you be ordering Baan Thai for pick-up.
April 27, 2017
The Washington Post
You can savor sit-down service at these downtown destinations, expense account not required.
Diners willing to venture north of Thomas Circle will be rewarded at Baan Thai, where the scent of lime juice and fish sauce hovers at the top of the stairs and many menu items are under $10. The salads — substantial, refreshing and stubbornly spicy — include a green mango variety ($8) with peanuts, scallions and roasted coconut. A grilled oyster mushroom salad ($8), meanwhile, is livened up by lots of cilantro and red onion. For something more substantial, try the angel-hair noodles ($15). Rice vermicelli are stir-fried with tomato sauce, creating a pink base that’s topped with tofu, ground chicken and shrimp in a coconut milk sauce.
July 17, 2017
The Washingtonian - Ann Limpert, Anna Spiegel, Jessica Sidman and Cynthia Hacinli
You’ll find one of the city’s great noodle dishes—an electric mix of vermicelli with peanuts, coconut milk, and lots of lime—inside this restaurant.
We’d be happy calling that dinner, but it’d be a shame to miss the rest of the cooking, which runs hotter and tangier than at the competition. A green-mango salad laced with scallions and roasted coconut singes the tongue, an oyster-mushroom salad almost elicits tears, and chicken is bathed in a hurts-so-good papaya curry.
Also good: Khao soi, a chicken curry with egg noodles and pickled cabbage; northern Thai pork curry.
October 7, 2016
The Washington Post
When people say Washington has finally become a restaurant town, what they really mean is that it’s finally become a chef-driven restaurant town. For years, the area has had an embarrassment of riches when it comes to mom-and-pop eateries founded by immigrants or by locals hungry for something cheap and good. Here are my favorites, in descending order:
1. Baan Thai
Located in an upstairs space that once hawked only Americanized sushi, Baan Thai has evolved into a destination for those who crave the authentic, clear-channel flavors of Thailand. 1326 14th St. NW. 202-588-5889. baanthaidc.com.
January 8, 2015
The Washington Post
The Washington PostLike Taylor Swift, Matthew McConaughey and Bruce Jenner, Tsunami Sushi and Lounge appears to be transitioning. The Japanese establishment, perched atop Thai Tanic on the equally evolving 14th Street corridor, started painting its nails a different shade in September and introducing itself by a second name: Baan Thai.
More important, the place decided not to speak with an American accent, the kind adopted by its sister restaurant on the ground floor (and by many other first-wave Thai eateries in the States). Rather, Baan Thai would take its cues from Little Serow, Soi 38 and other forward-thinking operations that have placed their bets on the transitioning American palate, which increasingly thirsts for the authentic. This restaurant within a restaurant would not compromise the flavors from Thailand’s four major culinary regions. As such, Baan Thai makes for a strange and intoxicating experience: One of the District’s best Thai restaurants now lies buried inside a business that spends half its time thinking about Japan. A sushi bar greets you at the top of the stairs, and chopsticks are the default utensils. You will, in all likelihood, need to ask for the traditional silverware of the Thai table — a fork and spoon — if you plan to eat like a native. You also will sort of cringe at the thought of feasting on such exquisite Thai dishes in a place that also peddles maki rolls with such names as Lava, Godzilla and “Rock ‘n’ roll.”
Chef Jeeraporn Poksupthong, better known as P’Boom among her colleagues, used to lead the kitchen at Thai Tanic, which shares some partners with Tsunami/Baan Thai but operates as a separate business. When the staff would gather daily for family meal, P’Boom would frequently ditch the sweetened concoctions designed for the restaurant’s drive-by diners and prepare genuine Thai food instead. The team came to embrace the cuisine’s electric, clear-channel flavors, as understated as a carnival barker’s pitch. “It was comfort food for us,” says Tom Healy, a managing partner with Tsunami and Baan Thai. When the owners of Thai Tanic expressed no interest in venturing outside their Americanized safety zone, Healy and company jumped into the void. Tsunami enticed P’Boom to create a menu of Thai specialties, which freely explore the many flavors of the bonsai-tree-shaped kingdom formerly known as Siam. Her menu initially tiptoed on the scene, quiet as a mouse, but soon strutted like a peacock. It now represents 50 percent or more of sales, Healy notes. My first dinner at Baan Thai may have been the best. It was an introduction that only heightened my anticipation for future meals; in a way, it also created a kind of bemused resentment at any reservation that stood between me and my next visit. The dinner started with an appetizer of ground chicken coated in a thick, gelatinous skin of tapioca; when wrapped with fresh romaine and cilantro and booby-trapped with a tiny length of bird’s eye chili, the gooey ball ignited on contact, shooting sharp, sweet flavors across the tongue. A Northern Thai yellow curry with chicken followed: It was a work of art, a complex curry with a towering garnish of fried egg noodles seemingly erupting from the bowl, as gorgeous and haunting as a Giacometti sculpture. Once I settled up and left Baan Thai that night, I wondered how the place could ever measure up to my first meal. The truth is, I would order a couple of dishes during later visits that hovered well below that lofty standard: The Thai vermicelli with ground chicken and tempura watercress in a chili-peanut sauce was advertised as spicy, but it had all the bite of a gummy bear (and the table condiments could do little to increase the voltage). Speaking of sweet, a dessert of sliced sauteed bananas in coconut milk was the gastronomic equivalent of a Philip Glass composition: a sugary expression, repeated over and over again. These aberrations aside, Baan Thai proved remarkably consistent, aiming high and repeatedly hitting the mark. The tom yum soup wandered far from the standard American-Thai preparation. With its double-barrel blast of pig — both roast pork and pork rinds — the soup delivered so many pleasures that I barely noticed the heat until I put down my spoon and started wiping away the tears. The central-Thai curry paste at the base of the stir-fried “pork picnic” (a reference to the meat cut, not some porcine fantasy) came with a four-chili-pepper warning, but I found the dish more fragrant than hot, its secret cache of finger root providing a floral cloud that floated deliciously over the heat. A couple dishes approached perfection, a word that rarely crosses my keyboard. The unassuming plate of green mango salad was one: Its pale strands arrived flavor-bombed with spice, sweetness and the sly, nutty milkiness of toasted coconut flakes. The stir-fried garlic rice with Thai-style fried chicken had a similarly laconic personality on the plate, but when slathered with ginger sauce, the tempura-coated breast meat was practically operatic. The Thai-style fried chicken can be found on P’Boom’s menu of winter specials, where you’ll also stumble upon the tom yum noodle soup and other treats. What this means is that when you pull up a chair here, you may flip through three different menus before deciding on dinner. Personally, I’d argue the owners should take their transitioning to its logical conclusion: Dump the sushi altogether. You can find overly conceptualized hand rolls anywhere. Authentic Thai remains a rare and beautiful thing. BAAN THAI/TSUNAMI SUSHI AND LOUNGE 1326 14th St. NW. 202-588-5889. www.tsunamisushidc.com. Hours: Lunch Monday-Friday 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday-Sunday 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dinner Sunday-Thursday 5 to 10:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday 5 to 11:30 p.m. Nearest Metro station: McPherson Square, with a half-mile walk to the restaurant. Prices: Entrees, $12-$16.
April 14, 2016
Washington City Paper
At Baan Thai, at least one or two tables per night ask “where’s the pad thai?” Healy admits that does make him pause to wonder if they should serve the dish.
But ultimately, the answer is no.
“Every single Thai restaurant in America is offering pad thai. It is the Big Mac of Thai cuisine,” Healy says. “We did not do this to sell Big Macs.”
When chef Aulie Bunyarataphan and her husband opened their first restaurant,T.H.A.I. in Shirlington, in 1995, she introduced fermented Isaan sausage to the menu—and was promptly lectured by Americans on what actual Thai food is.
“I was told this dish is not Thai. Thailand doesn’t have sausage,” Bunyarataphan says of customers’ reactions at the time. “They don’t know, and they’re afraid to try it too, so we took it off.”
Bunyarataphan also learned to shy away from anything too “smelly” or too spicy. “Twenty years ago, those flavors are not acceptable at all in a restaurant,” she says. She recalls how diners would freak out about a single chili pepper on a dish. At her next restaurant in Georgetown, Bangkok Joe’s, the chef continued to play it safe on the menu.
But Bunyarataphan and her husband and business partner, Mel Oursinsiri, aren’t shying away from sour, pungent, spicy flavors anymore. After replacing Bangkok Joe’s with short-lived French-Asian restaurant Mama Rouge, they’ve brought Bangkok Joe’s back—with some changes. Sure, the menu includes crowd-pleasers like pad thai, fried calamari, and a wide range of dumplings, but it also features some dishes the owners had stayed away from in the past. Bunyarataphan has amped up the heat on a seafood stir-fry and added funky fermented crab to a Lao-style papaya salad. And that Isaan sausage? It appears on the menu in two places.
“We go all the way, just like what we eat at home,” Bunyarataphan says. She believes diners aren’t scared anymore.
Neither are Thai chefs and restaurateurs. Bunyarataphan is one of several Thai chefs and restaurateurs across D.C. now flaunting the full range of flavors and ingredients in their native cuisine. Restaurants representing other food cultures—from Filipino at Bad Saint or Laotian at Thip Khao—have similarly refused to temper their dishes, but the trend is particularly exemplified by D.C.’s Thai restaurants.
Jeeraporn Poksupthong, better known as P’Boom, moved to D.C. from Rayong in eastern Thailand in 2006 and began cooking at Logan Circle’s Thai Tanic. The chef wanted to offer some specials beyond the restaurant’s Americanized fare of pad thai and drunken noodles on occasion, but she says the menu was already so established and successful that there wasn’t room for a new style. Instead, she served her authentic cuisine to the Thai staff for family meals.
Then a couple years ago, Poksupthong approached the owners of Tsunami Sushi, located above and operated by family members of the Thai Tanic team, with an idea to open a small pop-up with a few authentic Thai specials.
“There are so many wonderful Thai dishes people still can’t find in American Thai restaurants,” Poksupthong says. “Thai food is much more complicated and diverse than most Westerners realize. I knew that if we could give people a taste of Thai food that was more complex and beautiful than they had seen before, we would have a successful restaurant.”
Tsunami Sushi was struggling when it only served sushi, so co-owner Tom Healy says they were open to trying something new. Still, while Healy’s Thai wife and business partner Weerasak “Vena” Doungchan thought the idea was phenomenal, he admits he was a little reluctant at first. “I was like, ‘Uh, this is really spicy.’ I was hesitant,” he says.
But when the Baan Thai menu launched in August of 2014 with dishes like Northern Thai pork curry with pickled garlic and Thai vermicelli in chili peanut sauce, it was a hit. The new offerings were so successful that the owners closed Tsunami Sushi and reopened as Baan Thai. A sushi menu remains as a consolation to Tsunami’s regular customers, but it now comprises just 35 to 40 percent of the restaurant’s business. “Thai overtook sushi very quickly,” Healy says. The Thai menu also began to garner glowing reviews in the Washington Post and Eater National.
“We went from being moderately busy on a Friday and Saturday night to being an hour and 15 minutes for a table,” Healy says. “We were not prepared for how busy we were going to get.”
While Poksupthong and Healy say Baan Thai’s menu could have been successful five years ago, they’re not sure about 10. “D.C. has… gotten younger, this neighborhood especially,” Healy says. “The demographics have shifted here so heavily in the past 10 years that our market changed. Who we’re selling to and the stuff that we’re able to sell, the food that we’re able to advertise has opened up.”
Soi 38 owners Dia Khanthongthip and Nat Ongsangkoon also saw the changing tides. In 2002, the couple opened an Americanized Thai restaurant in Foggy Bottom called Thai Place. Back then, Khanthongthip says most diners couldn’t handle spicy food. But over the years, that’s changed. She recalls how they used to serve diners a green curry that was milder than the one the staff would eat. But when she eventually let some regular customers try the staff version, they liked it better. “That made me think they need to try the real Thai,” she says. Meanwhile, American friends who tried Khanthongthip’s home cooking also encouraged her to go a new direction.
In 2014, Khanthongthip and her husband closed Thai Place and opened Soi 38, which focuses exclusively on dishes they eat at home and experienced in their native Bangkok. (The restaurant is named for a famous street-food district and night market in the Thai capital.)
Khanthongthip says that people are generally more interested in “authenticity” in food these days. Although the term can have a kind of nebulous definition, today’s food culture often romanticizes traditional cooking techniques and family recipes handed down over generations.
Bizarre Foods and other food travel shows have no doubt played a role in a new generation’s willingness to explore foods previously considered exotic. Bangkok Joe’s chef Bunyarataphan adds that more of her diners have actually been to Thailand or have become more familiar with Thai food. “Before people were like, ‘Where is Thailand?’”
And then there’s the fact that one of the city’s top chefs (Komi’s Johnny Monis) began serving no-holds-barred Thai food at Little Serow in 2011. After Thai X-ing, the restaurant was many Washingtonians’ first introduction to some of the spicier, funkier flavors of Thai food, even though some Thai chefs quibble over whether some dishes are 100 percent “authentic.”
“Little Serow was definitely one of the restaurants that opened the door,” Healy says. “People got the idea that you could do more with Thai food than just the traditional Americanized fare, that there was a depth to Thai food that’s on the same level as, say, French cuisine. Those guys pushed the envelope first, and then this whole community of people realized that, ‘Wait a minute. Maybe we can offer more.’”
It may seem awkward that a non-Thai guy helped make food that the Thai community had been cooking at home all along trendy and mainstream in the District. But D.C.’s Thai chefs and restaurateurs don’t seem troubled by that.
“It means that Thai food is more popular with people that aren’t Thai,” Soi 38’s Khanthongthip says. “That’s good for me.”
In the years since, other chefs who aren’t Thai—from Doi Moi’s Haidar Karoumto Alfie’s’ Alex McCoy—have also tried their hand at the cuisine.
Beau Thai and BKK Cookshop chef Aschara Vigsittaboot is happy to see Thai food catch on. The only thing that feels weird to her is when restaurants, like Andy Ricker’s Pok Pok which she visited in New York, romanticize street food by making their dining rooms look kind of gritty—an aesthetic that could be charitably described as shack chic. “If you want to bring that kind of Thai food here, it should be in a better way,” she says.
Vigsittaboot and co-owner Ralph Brabham say Beau Thai, which opened its first location in Mount Pleasant in 2010, has never served Americanized food. Many of Vigsittaboot’s dishes, pulled from family recipes, have always been spicy. “If you eat curry, it has to be that way,” she says. Still, Vigsittaboot has added more of those spicy dishes—like a sweat-inducing larb ped (minced duck salad)—to the menu since Beau Thai first opened and expanded to Shaw.
Heat levels, however, continue to be a hot-button issue for the restaurants. Vigsittaboot says she gets a little annoyed when diners ask for a dish to be prepared “Thai spicy.” “Some Thai people, they don’t eat that spicy. Some Thai people eat very spicy like me,” she says. To address spice modifications, Vigsittaboot now gives diners craving extra heat some dried chilies to add in as they wish.
Similarly, at Baan Thai, Healy says he’s constantly asking people how much spice they can handle in their food.
“If we don’t warn people ahead of time that the four-chili items are going to be extremely spicy—and even the mid-level range ones are very spicy to some people—we’re risking getting a dish returned,” Healy says.
At Beau Thai, Vigsittaboot also resisted putting fish sauce in spice trays because a lot of people didn’t like the smell. However, at BKK Cookshop, which opened in Shaw last summer, she now offers a tray with fish sauce and an intensely hot chili oil to accompany noodle bowls.
While some Thai chefs and restaurateurs say no ingredient or flavor is off-limits anymore, Vigsittaboot and Brabham do see some limitations when it comes to what will actually sell. The other day, Vigsittaboot made herself a spicy, sour fish dish with fermented bamboo shoots. “Our assessment is that it’s an acquired taste, and it might be a tough sell,” Brabham says. But they’re open to running such a dish as a special in the future.
Despite these advances, the fact remains that pad thai still reigns supreme. It remains the most popular dish at both Beau Thai and Soi 38. At Baan Thai, at least one or two tables per night ask “where’s the pad thai?” Healy admits that does make him pause to wonder if they should serve the dish.
But ultimately, the answer is no.
“Every single Thai restaurant in America is offering pad thai. It is the Big Mac of Thai cuisine,” Healy says. “We did not do this to sell Big Macs.”
June 19, 2015
Bill Addison / Eater.com
In the first spoonful of khao soi gai at Baan Thai in Washington D.C., I tasted muscle. Not actual flesh, though chicken stock certainly mingled in the broth of this curry noodle soup native to northern Thailand. I tasted brawn. Someone in the kitchen had pounded the hell out of lemongrass, ginger, fresh turmeric, and other spices to create a curry paste imbued with supernatural strength. It was electrical and alive. It infused every atom in the fiery liquid, layered with a pungent whomp of shrimp paste against the soothing sweetness of coconut milk. Braised chicken rested in a shallow pool of broth atop ropy noodles, garnished with sliced shallots (also an ingredient in the paste) and pickled mustard greens. One spritz of lime quickened every flavor. Fried noodles, a traditional adornment, rose from the far corner of the bowl like a tangle of wintry branches. Every other element of the dish instantly conjured the tropics.
My friend and I took alternate bites, marveling, and showered the server with so many questions that he eventually brought out the chef, Jeeraporn Poksupthong. She patiently fielded our guesses at ingredients ("Yes, there’s cardamom") and offered up a few more insights. She seemed reluctant to disclose all her secrets, but pride twinkled in her eyes.
Baan Thai began as an alternate menu introduced last fall at a Japanese place known as Tsunami Sushi & Lounge. The same owners run a stalwart below it called Thai Tanic that offers the kinds of Americanized diminutions — the mild noodles, the coddling over-creamed curries — served in mass-appeal Thai restaurants for decades. Noticing a shift in tastes among younger generations of restaurant goers, the owners wanted to try an experiment: They enlisted Poksupthong to compose a menu of truer Thai standards, with the stratums of heat and complexity in tact. Word spread and customers soon swooned over chile-blazed sticky tapioca spheres stuffed with ground chicken and cradled in a romaine leaf, or herbaceous green curry bathing fish balls (spiced, ground mackerel) with eggplant and a nest of rice vermicelli. Astounded by the response, the owners officially renamed the restaurant Baan Thai earlier this year.
December 17, 2015
Tim Carman: The Washington Post
I began the year by writing about a semi-covert concept called Baan Thai, an intoxicating place forced to share tables with an Americanized sushi house on 14th Street. I closed the year with a fruitless search for another Thai joint, this one purportedly buried in the crusty corridors of Eden Center, the Falls Church mall better known for its Vietnamese cooking.
Few restaurants symbolize the District’s changing palate better than Baan Thai. Chef Jeeraporn Poksupthong (or P’Boom for short) used to lead the kitchen at Thai Tanic, a sister restaurant that still thinks American diners would rather down Drano than fish sauce. P’Booom knows better: Her dishes don’t pander or condescend. They’re clear-channel broadcasts straight from Thailand’s four major culinary regions, and Washingtonians have received the messages with open minds. And mouths. Baan Thai, 1326 14th St. NW. 202-588-5889. baanthaidc.com.
April 9, 2015
Washington City Paper
If you wait until the last minute to eat out on 14th Street NW, you’re pretty much screwed. An hour-to-two wait is the admission price at most of the restaurants worth visiting on the trendy corridor. Not so at Baan Thai, where you can always count on a seat and a satisfying, affordable meal.
Credit the lack of a big name chef and hip decor, or the fact that people have yet to discover that some of the best Thai food in the District is served at a sushi restaurant. In addition to your standard California rolls, the menu focuses primarily on the pungent, spicy, and occasionally funky flavors of northern Thailand. Among the highlights: thin rice noodles with a ground chicken and shrimp peanut sauce and a tangle of greens fried tempura style as well as khao soi, a Burmese-style coconut-based curry with chicken, egg noodles, red onion, and pickled cabbage topped with crunchy fried noodles. Also don’t miss the northern Thai pork curry with strands of ginger and bright yellow pickled garlic. In the time you’d be waiting for a table at Le Diplomate, you’ll be full and happy.
May 5, 2015
The owners of Tsunami Sushi & Lounge decided to start offering traditional Thai dishes last year with a menu that meanders through several regions of that country. The kitchen’s commitment to authenticity means no alterations or substitutions allowed — similar to the deal at the beloved Little Serow — and its status as restaurant within a restaurant mirrors a few other trendy places like Range. But unlike many fancier spots that also pray at the altar of authenticity, this place delivers. (Literally. You can order online and have it delivered to your door.)
1326 14th St. NW, second floor; 202-588-5889
July 27, 2015
Tyler Cowen's Ethnic Dining Guide
Regional Thai cuisine, from four different parts of the country, the attached sushi restaurant serves as a talisman against the uninformed. Get the tapioca chicken, the Isan sausage, and the Thai vermicelli in chili peanut sauce. This is one of three or four local places with real Thai food, and thus one of the best dining spots in DC
April 22, 2015
From the exterior, it's hard to tell that Tsunami Sushi also happens to serve some of the best Thai food in D.C., but climb the stairs and you'll find, in addition to sashimi and California rolls, a menu of Thai dishes full of spice and surprise (and no pad thai in sight!)
While it's difficult to choose a favorite of Baan Thai's noodle offerings, the tom yum noodle soup is an addicting amalgamation of flavor with the power to chase away your winter blues. The soup's chewy rice noodles are hard to spot at first, hidden as they are beneath slices of roast pork, ground chicken, cilantro and crushed peanuts. Each bite yields new surprises—a burst of chili, a crispy bit of pork skin—and the soup's rich broth, bright with lime, will have you slurping until the last drop. The tom yum noodle soup is currently listed on the restaurant's winter specials menu, but here's hoping it becomes a permanent fixture. —Elizabeth PackerBaan Thai is located within Tsunami Sushi, 1326 14th Street NW, on the second floor.
November 25, 2014
We love Thai food; or, what we thought was Thai food.When we went to our favorite Thai restaurant, we would order the same things every single time: red curry and Pad Thai. There isn’t anything wrong with these dishes; they are absolutely delicious with just the right amount of spice accompanied by strong, bold flavors. The problem is that these aren’t authentic Thai dishes.
Enter Tsunami Sushi, a restaurant on 14th Street, just north of Logan Circle. Famous for its sushi, the restaurant wanted to try something different; they wanted to bring the authentic flavors of Thailand to Washington, DC. It was a gamble – most Americans (including us) – are familiar with Americanized Thai dishes. Not having the well-known dishes on the menu could alienate some potential customers. But, on the other hand, if you make unique dishes that celebrate truly authentic Thai flavors, you could really have something that’s worth going back for.Thankfully, Tsunami Sushi took that gamble gave us one of the most interesting, and delicious, meals we’ve experienced in the city.We started with cocktails (of course). Tommy, the manager and one of the partners of the restaurant, made us two of the house cocktails, which were delicious and refreshing; perfect after a long day at work. The first was the “Emerald”; made of vodka, St. Germaine, fresh squeezed lime juice and aloe vera juice. The other drink was “The Tsunami Julep” with bourbon, yuzu liqueur, honey, muddled mint and lime juice. A little later in the evening, we sampled a “White Lotus”, a frozen drink with Soju, sake, yuzu liqueur, fresh squeezed lime juice, calpis and soda water.The restaurant features a traditional happy hour Monday-Friday from 5-7 p.m. New to the restaurant is an additional happy hour featuring buy-one-get-one-free cocktails, Monday through Friday in the bar only, from 7-9 p.m. (Excluding sake and bottles of wine.)The restaurant also has a wonderful event space that you can reserve without a down payment and doesn’t have a minimum – which is extremely rare in the city. The room fits up to 65 people. (Sounds like a perfect place for an office holiday party!)To start, we enjoyed Thai street food inspired appetizers. The entire menu features original recipes from Northern Thailand (historically, the Lanna Kingdom), Northeastern Thailand (locally known as Esaan), Central Thailand, and Southern Thailand. Executive Chef P’Boom carefully creates each dish, making curry pastes in house and goes to great lengths to ensure only the best, authentic ingredients are used. And, to make sure each diner experiences only truly bona fide Thai dishes, no substitutions are allowed. While some people may be turned off by this, we love it. By not allowing substitutions, the restaurant knows exactly what the customer is getting.The first appetizer we tried was “Vegetable curry in a cone” (Gruuai gà’rii). The textures were perfect – something nice and crunchy with warm, vegetable filling spiced perfectly. It was accompanied by a salad featuring onions, cucumbers and carrots with a vinegar-based dressing.We also enjoyed grilled beef skewers (Núua yâang nahm jim jeao). The beef was simply seasoned and grilled and accompanied by a Thai chili sauce that was so good, we wanted to take some home and put it on everything.One of our favorite appetizers were the crispy rice cakes with chicken and shrimp (Khao dtung naa túng). We loved the crispy texture of the rice cakes paired with the delightfully rich, flavorful mixture of chicken and shrimp with coconut milk, onions and ground peanuts. The flavors were bold, but well-balanced.Finally, we tried chicken stuffed in a tapioca skin (Saa-kuu sâi gài). The chicken mixture had a great depth of flavor featuring garlic, peanuts and pepper. It was surrounded by tapioca beads that were steamed to create a unique shell around the filling. It was served with lettuce and cilantro, which added crunch and freshness. With each dish, including this one, we loved how the staff told us how to eat each menu item.We were already full, but we needed to press on to the main dishes and we started with some good ‘ole Thai comfort food - Thai vermicelli in chili peanut sauce (Kanom jeen nahm phrik). It included thin Thai rice noodles, coconut, milk, peanuts, ground chicken, ground shrimp, red onions, garlic, tempura watercress and chili powder. We mashed it all together, as suggested, and it became an interesting mix of textures and flavors. It was one of the highlights of the night. We can see ourselves ordering it on a cold winter night. (Or, even a hot summer night!)Next, we were served Northern Thailand pork curry (Gaeng hunglay). The dish featured pork shoulder, ginger, pickled garlic and northern Thailand curry paste. It was a great example of how Thai cooks use everything – including ginger root and whole cloves of garlic – to make a dish that’s spicy, but well-balanced.The last main dish we enjoyed was a spicy stir-fried pork picnic (Pad phèt moo bpaa). It was a spicy dish with lots of peppers, eggplant, finger root, fresh peppercorns and a house-made central Thailand curry paste. There were different cuts of pork throughout, which delivered a variety of textures and flavors.Finally, we had a little sweet treat to finish the meal, a few coconut milk griddle snacks (Kanom krok). They’re made out of simple ingredients – coconut milk, rice flour, sugar and salt – but they were the perfect end to a spicy and savory meal.The meal, as a whole, was delicious and we can’t wait to go back to try other dishes. (And, have some repeats!) It was unique and so full of flavor, it made us wonder what else we’ve been missing. It gave us a little taste of Thailand, and we loved every bite.Tsunami Sushi
1326 14th Street, NW, 2nd Floor
Washington, DC 20005
October 8, 2014
Interrupting the regularly scheduled programming of wistful European recaps because I had to make sure that the best Thai curry I've had in DC (yes, really) went down on record in this blog. So without further delay:
Today's NSOL features: Tsunami Sushi & Lounge
1326 14th St NW, 2nd Floor
Washington, DC 20005
http://www.tsunamisushidc.com/For one reason or another, the Jenkins-Chan household has been patronizing (read: getting delivery from) Tsunami Sushi in Logan Circle for over a year now. Despite the fact that the sushi itself is pretty mediocre, it's been our go-to for dependable, predictable maki because sometimes a girl just needs some Spider/DC/Lava/Jade/Pearl/Dragon rolls in her life. Fortunately, I started hearing whispers down the grape vine that Tsunami had apparently added an authentic (A-word alert) northern Thai menu and after reading Jessica Sidman's surprisingly positive write-up, I decided to check it out for lunch.
I wasn't disappointed. In fact, I would go so far as to describe my feelings about the beef curry noodles (or
guuai dtiiao kehk núua, as pretty mindblowing for a casual Wednesday lunch. If you'll excuse the terrible office "flatware", the messy picture above highlights almost all the disparate elements that made the curry ridiculously tasty: super tender cuts of beef, thin rice noodles, lots of crunchy bean sprouts which soaked up the sauce, chopped up bits of slightly chewy bean curd, FRIED ONIONS and of course, a hard boiled egg. The curry sauce itself clearly comes from some incredibly fragrant (and legit) curry paste and is made creamy from (I'm guessing) no nonsense full fat coconut milk of some kind. The entire thing is packed with tons of umami and flavor, without being too salty.Another plus (or minus, depending on how you talk to), is that the smell of the curry has now permeated the entire office, leading to lots of questions about what I'm eating - and of course, I was happy to point them to Tsunami just down the street.I can't wait to try the rest of the menu, which I will also do when I'm not wearing white. In summary:What's the deal: Mediocre Japanese joint "spices" things up (haha) with a new Thai menu
Wallet damage: It's more expensive than your average lunch joint but worth it. Apps are between $5 and $7, entrees like the beef curry will go between $14 and $16.
What to get: The beef curry noodles, obviously, and I suspect most everything else. The khao soi gai seems to be another resounding favorite - wonder whether it'll be as good as Doi Moi's up the street. Don't get anything off the Japanese menu; why would you, when they've added all this good stuff?
September 30, 2014
Washington City Paper
Despite the restaurant's name, sushi is not what you want to order at Logan Circle's Tsunami Sushi & Lounge. Located above and from the same owners as Thai Tanic, the place was previously limited to so-so spicy tuna rolls and unadventurous nigiri platters.But about a month ago, the restaurant debuted a new Thai menu, under the name Baan Thai, in response to all the customers who came upstairs asking for Thai food. Instead of Americanized Thai staples like pad thai and panang curry that you'll find at Thai Tanic, the upstairs restaurant features a completely separate menu—no substitutions allowed—with more authentic dishes from across Thailand, including the more sour, funky, spicy flavors of the northern part of the country. It's one of the most unexpectedly delicious meals I've had in a while.
The crispy rice cakes are a worthy starter. The puffed-up crackers come with a sweet-savory dipping sauce of ground chicken and shrimp, ground peanuts, onions, and coconut milk. Meanwhile, a bamboo shoot salad dressed with chilies, lime juice, scallions, shallots, mint, cilantro, and roasted rice powder tastes just like something you'd find at Little Serow. The stir-fried spicy "pork picnic"—chunks of meat, red and green peppers, eggplant, finger root, fresh peppercorns, central Thailand curry paste—is designated "very spicy" on the menu with four chili pepper signs. The heat is most definitely not dumbed down. Our server declares his favorite dish to be the khao soi, a Burmese-influenced curry with egg noodles, super tender chicken thigh, pickled cabbage, scallions, shallots, and crispy fried noodles on top. Of the dishes I tried, I have to agree with him. Plus, the khao soi costs $14—two dollars less and just as delicious as the much smaller version of the same dish at Doi Moi.The check arrives with a complimentary coconut cream-filled pastry—a simple, satisfying sweet. But the best part? Two appetizers, two entrees, and a drink (with plenty of leftovers to box up) will set you back less than $50.
Friday, Saturday: 5pm–11pm