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Jan 8, 2008 09:39 PM

Thai Square

So so experience.

Shrimp green curry -- special of the day, and taro stew sweet dessert.

I wasn't very hungry so I ordered light and the basics just to test the kitchen.

The green curry wasn't impressive at all. It was much better IIRC at Nava Thai in Wheaton. I could approximate the flavor 85% with curry milk and the frozen Thai curry paste in my freezer - why pay $12 for something marginally better? The taro dessert, I can scoop a cup at Bamboo Buffet.

I'm just pissy with what seems to be par for the course NoVA Thai food. I want to be wowed with Bangkok or Singapore hawker stall flavor and all I can find (not that I look very hard) is bland baby food Americanized flavor. Ok, that's not realistic. I could try Ruan Thai, and return to Nava, but I wish they were less of a trek.

I think I'm afflicted with curse of watching Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern. The cheap and delicious food they eat in Asia devalues my own real life eating experience here. Sometimes ignorance is bliss. (Gordon Ramsay bears responsibility too.)

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  1. I haven't been impressed by any green curry for a long time now. The only coconut curry I do like is at Nam Viet where Jamie D helped me ID that they add in squash or pumpkin to the mix. The only other non-Indian curries I like are along the lines of the northeast style curry at Thai Luang, and a similar dish at Tarin Thai. This latter place might also intrigue you, Minger, though it's a trek to Herndon if you're not out that way already.

    It's been awhile for me at Thai Square, but I've almost always been impressed there - again, I've never ordered a green curry from them. I know Steve has posted a list of must-trys a few times. I also like to add the spicy squid salad to that list - sort of like larb on steroids.

    And, this is one place where you do have to tell them you want it authentic style. They may even fight you on it. The last room-mate I had before I married never could convince them that he really wanted it that way - but I never had a problem.

    1. You won't find "Bangkok or Singapore hawker stall flavor" inany DC restaurant. However, Thai Square is still the most suthentic you will find in the area. It is unforatuante that you were disappointed. Give it another try. If you are unsure, ask the servers what you should try. Even the servers from other Thai restaurants that I know come to Thai Square to eat.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Dakota Guy

        IIRC, Pookie Duangrat (of Duangrat and Rabieng) had a third place briefly that specialized in street food. But yes, there's little here that compares to the cheapest roadside tent in Bangkok. Thai Square is one of the better ones, and I was also pleasantly surprised by Ruan Thai the last time I was there.

        1. re: sweth

          sweth, was the street food place in the location where raaga is now? if so, i did not realize that great little place had been connected with duangrat/rabieng around the corner. it made great noodles. in fact, it was " noodle house". maybe "bangkok noodle house," iirc. i still recall the open-work, white patio furniture and "palm trees" inside.

          1. re: alkapal

            I honestly don't remember if it was exactly where Raaga is now, but right near there. I think it was called "Bangkok Street Grill & Noodles" or something like that.

      2. Thai Square can fry like few others. Go for the greens with fried pork belly bits and have insanely crunchy pork against soft and flavorful greens.

        Try the shredded catfish salad and the sun dried beef or pork, both winners. If it is chilly outside, the floating market soup in brown broth is rich and complex.

        We've never had an issue with food being dumbed down there, though the servers have confirmed that we know certain dishes are spicy.

        1. I recently visited Thai Square with a friend who is thai and he pronounced it excellent...but we didn't have the green curry. He actually ordered off of the Thai menu and we had a red curry with duck. Some of the other highlights on the menu are the papaya salad, which we once convinced the waitress to give us "thai-hot" and it literally made me go deaf for several minutes, and the crispy squid. If you want heat, ask for the chili tray too.

          19 Replies
          1. re: caphill2320

            caphill2320: chile heat made you go deaf for several minutes? wow! have you ever had any reaction even similar prior to that? can you describe the experience in more detail? i'm so intrigued.....

            anyone else?

            1. re: alkapal

              I've had many dishes so hot that they gave me a headache, and twice (including once in Thailand, actually) the headache was bad enough to cause my ears to ring. But I've never gone deaf from food. (Or at least not directly. I also once accidentally ate a huge mound of wasabi that inflamed my sinuses so bad that, a few hours later, I was completely congested and couldn't hear a thing.)

              1. re: sweth

                I ordered the green curry because it was a special of the day so I thought it would truly special, but I guess it was a revenue item, since it was priced above the regular curries and not that special. (Unless you're a regular, it's never really clear until you get the order whether the "special" is a true labor of love or a marketing move on ordinary food to boost the receipts.)

                OK. so avoid the green curry; search chow, next time, for suggestions; ask for thai authentic; try ordering off the thai menu? (i don't read or speak thai so the last idea might be problematic.)

                is it possible to convey wanting the order "thai authentic" without it getting it "thai spicy?" i once insisted on getting cashew chicken (at jackon diner in queens, ny) "indian spicy" and the waiter decided not to humor me and gave it to me double barrel. the dish was inedible. something between baby food and searing realism would be ideal, how do you convey and get that?

                1. re: Minger

                  Hmm... maybe "ow ahaan thai, day mai thai pet, cup". That's a completely mangled transliteration that is (IMHO) easier for most English speakers to get vaguely correct than the "official" transliteration; since Thai is a tonal language and my Thai is very poor to begin with, you'll probably still get confused stares, but there's at least a chance that they'll understand it as something along the lines of "I want Thai food, but not Thai spicy, please". You could also try "ow neet noy pet, cup", or "I want it just a little bit spicy, please".

                  1. re: sweth

                    Just to clarify, the "cup" at the end of the phrases is a polite suffix used if the speaker is male; if the speaker is female, the corresponding word is "khaa". OK, I promise that's my last post on this topic. For real this time.

                  2. re: Minger

                    I just remembered another phrase that sometimes worked when I was in Thailand to get authentic food when it looked like I was going to get the American menu: "ow ahaan thai tamadaa", or "I want normal Thai food". I've found that my pidgin Thai worked much better in Thailand than here, though, for some reason.

                    1. re: Minger

                      OK, one last tip that I thought of: don't forget to ask for the spice tray when you order. Good Thai places will have a tray of 4-5 traditional Thai condiments like prik nam pla (spicy fish sauce) that they'll bring out with your food, since it's expected in Thailand that you'll want to tweak the seasoning and spice to suit your own palate. As a test of inauthenticity it's got a very low false-positive rate--I've never seen a good Thai place that doesn't have the tray--but having the tray isn't necessarily a guarantee that the place is good... but the other advantage of asking for it is that once you have it, you can use it to season the food. ;)

                      1. re: sweth

                        i always have to use the vinegar with chopped green chilies for my pad kee mao (drunken noodles). for extra heat, i like to add the red ground chilies paste/sambal.

                        1. re: alkapal

                          And I love the fish sauce. I've been very good about weaning myself off of salt, but this adds a nice salty flavor I can't resist while adding a touch of heat. Then I can add the same ground chilies alkapal references.

                          I was so set to get that yesterday for lunch and work got in the way :(

                        2. re: sweth

                          thanks for all the tips sweth. as someone who has suggested to others ways to convey "authenticity" in Chinese, i am intimidated at the idea of conveying "authenticity" in Thai. :-)

                          1. re: Minger

                            Please, share your tips for getting authentic Chinese food, too, then. So far the only phrase I've been able to dig up is "zhen zheng de" (high, falling, and neutral tones), but I'm not even sure what it means and it doesn't seem to work very often.

                              1. re: Minger

                                Heh. Groundhogs day, indeed. For some reason, I never saw those followups in that thread; a belated thanks for them.

                                Any advice on the tones for those phrases, by the way?

                                1. re: sweth

                                  correction, dao dao di di -> dao di = authentic or genuine. that's the keyword you want to convey

                                  you can look up "authentic" and get the pinyin and a voice guide for "dao di" (and any other words)

                                  wo (third) I
                                  yao (fourth) want
                                  chi (first) to eat
                                  dao (fourth) authentic
                                  di (light
                                  )de (light)
                                  (si (fourth)) (sichuan)
                                  (chuan (first))
                                  chai(fourth) food

                                  maybe some better Chinese speakers can help out?

                                  1. re: Minger

                                    I would substitute "yao" for "xiang" (third tone) for would like. It's a bit more polite.

                                    Also, technically, a "ch" would indicate a curled tongue sound, so the pinyin would be "cai," but pronounced "tsai." (I think the pronounciation writing is more in wai-giles, but it's the closest sound i can think of).

                                    I feel that "dao di" and "dang (1st tone) di" can be interchangable, but don't know if people have opinions, other than 1st tone is easier to pronounce....

                                    1. re: orangemix

                                      I think "dangdi" really means "local", so you're better of with "daodi" or "zhenzheng" in my opinion. A friend of mine frequently requests that they "make the dish as if they were cooking it for a Chinese person," which seems to help.

                    2. re: alkapal

                      Oh, man, it was intense. My friend who loves chilies just kept insisting that we wanted the papaya salad "thai hot" while the waitress looked at us skeptically. It was just so so spicy, but so tasty. I think it was more of an endorphin response than anything. It was like the volume of everything in the restaurant got muted, like under water. I love spicy foods, and that hasn't put me off, but that was a crazy dinner.

                      1. re: caphill2320

                        > It was just so so spicy, but so tasty. I think it was more of an endorphin response than anything. It was like the volume of everything in the restaurant got muted, like under water.

                        That's the funniest thing I've ever read on this board!

                        1. re: caphill2320

                          Ah, yes. Among my friends, food so hot that you get high off the endorphin rush is "I can see through time"-hot, after Lisa's comment after trying some of Apu's vindaloo in an episode of the Simpsons. A semi-reliable source of that sort of rush is the shaltak (sp?) at George's Townhouse, the cheesesteak hut at the edge of Georgetown--they put a little bit on their cheesesteaks, but you can ask for extra on the side; the spiciness can vary a lot between batches, so if you slather your extra shaltak on without tasting it first, you'll end up with about a quarter of your cheesesteaks being "i can see through time"-hot.

                    3. I've ordered the green curry at Bangkok Golden and it's authentically flavored and Thai hot! Bangkok Golden is in the strip mall behind Home Depot at Seven Corners.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: chowdown1123

                        is bangkok golden the one with a buffet lunch? perpendicular to home depot? near the hong kong place?

                        how is it for other dishes? i wasn't impressed by the buffet, but 1. it was buffet; 2. the name seemed maybe, different mgmt?