Nava Thai in Wheaton - Thanks Chew!
Sunday after Thanksgiving, and wife & I needed a good lunch to get the juices flowing before going into the restaurant for a long day of accounting issues & running the restaurant for dinner. Soup was in order. We first thought about a run to Bob's Shabu squared but it was too far. Sergio's for pupusas & chicken soup sounded perfect so we drove there. When we parked around the corner I saw Nava Thai across the street. I remembered Chew's raves on Nava Thai so despite our so so first meal there we returned. Good move!
We had a couple of bowls of soup & a plate of Som Tum. I had the market noodle soup with pork. My only quibble was the sweetness level of the broth, but I fear that this may just as likely be an issue of the sweetness level being proper and my just not liking it that sweet as any other reason. But since it was corrected with the addition of a little vinegar with hot chiles, what the heck. The nonrubbery and surprisingly flavorful mystery-meatballs were particularly good, the pork abundant and flavorful. Kay had the roast duck stew soup and it was fine with a lot of spice from the duck. The Som Tum was wondrous! Fiery hot, with a thicker dressing that made a more complete whole of the dish. It wasn't a simple salad of papaya in a dressing but a complex whole. I loved the use of the green beans and the squished grape tomatoes added flavor, a little relief from the considerable heat and a nice texture contrast. Unlike the recent som tum at both Ruan Thai and Thai Square, this one lacked the tiny dried shrimp but the dressing had lots of the powdered crustaceans in there. Simply the best Som Tum I have had in ages (since the hole in the wall in East Hollywood or the joints on sherman way in the San Fernando Valley of LA).
Based on a small sample size, I think that Nava is now equal to Thai Square and for many dishes, ahead of Ruan Thai. But Ruan Thai has some stuff I have never had before and does such a superb job on their veggie components of their dishes that much careful consideration will have to be given to both. But for general eating, Nava is now ahead of Ruan, but I will go to Ruan when I feel like their wonderful eggplant dishes (which is often) or the steamed bun mi and chicken in red curry at lunch.
Superb food, cheap ($36 for three beers and 3 dishes served by a wonderfully sweet server who was so concerned that we like their food. The heat kept me going all day and long into the night!! I am sure this will be a first of many visits back. Thanks Chew!!!
I visited Nava Thai after reading Tim Carman's City Paper report in August and enjoyed everything I've had there. Somehow I can never remember which day during the week they're closed (it's Wednesday). I need to get back to see what they've added to the menu.
Carman's review gives more information about the owners and details about the Floating Market Soup:
Here's a link to Chew's original post recommending Nava Thai:
Kliman had a mouthwatering rave about Nava on his chat this morning. www.washingtonian.com/chats/restaurants ... I was practically drooling on my keyboard. He didn't come out and say it but it sounded like he was pretty close to saying it was the best Thai food in the area. Or maybe I'm reading things into his quickie review? My two experiences there have been awfully good.
I work in Kensington and am always looking for local (Wheaton) lunchspots.
Love this place. Would never have even found it without your rec !
Can also suggest Max's & Lucia's as great lunch spots (across University from Nava).
PS- Thnaks Dino.... The Wifey loves the salt you recommended.
I'm glad you liked it! I just found out that they have recently revised their menu by adding even more items. I haven't tried all of the new stuff yet but I'm hoping that it's up to the level of their other foods. As far as I am aware - Nava is a mom & pop shop and I think the pop is the one in the kitchen, though I am sure they have a spare chef on his day off. (which may affect day to day consistency now and then), so if you try something that tastes favorably remember the day or ask who is in the kitchen just to be sure.
In terms of restaurants - I grew up here in the states so I meter my Thai food by 1) Does it taste like what dear old (now retired and living overseas, former Thai restaurant chef) mom used to make and / or 2) recommendations from my other Thai "foodie" friends and so far that system has worked out pretty good :-)