Sweet Rice Thai Cuisine, Falls Church
- Bob W Apr 26, 2007 11:36 AM
Having heard nothing about this place, I decided to take one for the team today.
This was money well spent. Tom kha gai -- possibly my favorite soup in the world -- was excellent. I also tried the lunch special of ba mee penang, thin egg noodles in a peanut curry sauce with chicken. Quite luscious.
Sweet Rice is a good addition to the long-running Pilin in Falls Church. It's a very attractive little eatery.
This place is just east of Don Beyer Volvo on W. Broad St, in a tiny strip that also includes the Baguette Republic bakery. I stopped in there while waiting for my food and picked up what I hope will be a delicious currant scone. The place definitely smells good and the breads looked great.
I was running errands and in the neighborhood late lunchtime today, so I stopped in. I ordered tom kha gai, because I love it also; woon sen pad thai, because as much as I love pasta and pad thai, I love woon sen noodles even more; and a ginger iced tea, just because it sounded different and interesting.
Here's how my lunch went.
The tea came right away. At the first sip, I thought the ginger was so strong that it would overwhelm my taste buds for anything else. It also was as sweet as Thai iced tea usually is, without the milk. I squeezed the lemon slice, stirred and tasted again. It was perfect. Although still as sweet as any southern "sweet tea," the balance was good. But I don't recommend ordering it if you don't like your tea sweet. BTW, it was sweet with sugar, not corn syrup. A good thing imo.
Next came the soup. It looked very appealing: healthy coconut milk component, nicely red, and with lots of sliced white meat chicken and mushrooms. I took a first bite of broth and mushroom, and it tasted unbelievably bland. Had the ginger tea in fact worn out my taste buds? No. Thoughtfully, I stirred the soup and took another taste. This time, it was perfectly balanced with spice and tartness, and with the coconut smoothing it out rather than blanding it out. There was a great depth of flavor there underneath the initial flavors, too. Two for two.
Then came the woon sen pad thai. I like woon sen because it seems a lighter dish than rice noodles. I seem to recall being told years ago by a Chinese colleague that it has better protein content than rice, too. Cooked as pad thai, it is somewhat less common in Thai restaurants than the typical rice noodle, and many don't do it nearly as well as their usual pad thai, either. So this was a test. Well at first bite, all I tasted was sweet, and I longed to flag the waitress to have her bring me some peppers, nam pla, and a few slices of lime to balance the sweetness and give it some contrasting flavors and oomph. As I was facing the windows and didn't want to keep turning around, I simply kept on eating figuring she would come soon to ask how everything was. Guess what. After a few bites, the other tastes started coming out. As it was not over-sauced as pad thai typically is, the chicken hadn't picked up the sweetness and tasted of chicken. Ditto the vegetables. Soon, it didn't even seem as sweet. By the time the waitress came by, it was tasting pretty good as is, and I decided to not fiddle with the flavors. I suspect it would have been good with any or all the the additives mentioned above, but it was just fine without.
I was rather primed to like this place. As Bob W says, it is an attractive little place, although certainly not the tiniest place we frequent. I think it holds maybe 50 diners if all tables are full. I'm not sure why I had a similar experience with each dish and the drink: initial disappointment changing to approval. At first, I thought it was perhaps because I had had my teeth cleaned a few hours before, and my taste buds had undergone short-term damage. Whatever the reason, it's worth checking out and sampling a few more dishes.
It's near me so I go sometimes for take-out. It varies. The drunken noodles are not at the level of Basil Thai (I'm only familiar w/the Geotown location there).
The Curry Puffs were nice the one and only time I had them.
The egg rolls have been really, really good on one occasion, and a little strange tasting on another, as though they contained an herb that was not in the first purchase.
I will eventually explore their menu more. Very friendly staff.