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Oct 28, 2009 01:06 PM

Bangkok 54 in Arlington Review

I have recently discovered this place. I am very happy to finally find a place that delivers to me in Ballston that is good. I have always wanted to enjoy Thai food, but I have not eaten it that often due to the fact that I have never found it made well. I have tried dozens of places where they pre-boil the meat and toss it in a sauce that the restaurant is not capable of spicing correctly or tom yum soup that tastes the same in every Thai place because they don't make the stock, but buy the same paste that I can buy.

I tried Thai Square and enjoyed a couple dishes (crispy squid, market soup, pig feet stew), but they have horrible parking and do not deliver, so I had given up until I saw someone mention Bangkok 54 here. So here it is from three visits over the last couple weeks:

Green papaya salad, thai hot was excellent. It had all my favorite things in it and was spicy. The owner said it was too spicy for her, but I could have had more spice.

Larb. Thai hot. Not as spicy when it hit the table, but delicious and simple and flavorful. I would have liked it spicier and I would have prefered that there was a pile of manageable lettuce/cabbage to wrap the chicken in, the way they served it was on a bed of lettuce which made it messy and difficult to manage. I am not 100% on what is traditional.

Tom yum. Homemade. Delicious. Sour. Spicy. Lots of mushrooms. Lots of lemongrass. Best that I have tasted.

Green curry. Thai hot. A little spicy, but delicious. I think the eggplant were a bit undercooked, but that was better than them being mushy.

PORKY BELLY WITH GREEN BEANS!!!!!! OMG. I have had this twice now. It comes in a sweet and slightly sour chili paste. They have told me that they can't make it spicier which would take this dish from a 9 to a 10+.

Deep fried tofu with chili sauce. I am not a fan of tofu (or vegetarianism in general ;P) but a veg friend ordered this and I couldn't believe how good it was. Delicious chili and vinegar sauce which is slightly sweet. Crispy and good.

Lastly, (and you aren't gonna believe this one) excellent homemade cheesecake in mango sauce. Next time I will skip the mango sauce. The cheesecake may be the best I have had in the DC area.

Additionally, there is a Thai grocery store attached. A lot of similar things in general, but the delightful frisson was the deli. They make a lot more Thai-centric foods in there that I have never seen in restaurants. I bought a sour soup with bamboo and shrimp and a sour shrimp curry. They also have about four chili pastes that are made in house (the really dark red one is the hottest). They have hot foods and cold foods (papaya salad!). And sweets too!



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  1. i've long been a fan of bangkok 54, especially the grocer next door.

    i actually prefer to grab lunch items there as opposed to at the restaurant...particularly the ground chicken kaprao with rice and a fried egg. the desserts are noteworthy as well...its all pretty good.

    also its my go-to spot for fresh rice noodles, shrimp paste, thai basil,holy basil, kaffir lime, and other thai cooking staples.

    1. I haven't been there in a long time, but I have always enjoyed it. Maybe time to back....

      1. oooh, papaya salad ready to go in the market? yay!
        thanks for the report, sekelman.

        1. Used to live within walking distance of this great place, and sadly took it for granted while I lived in the area!!

          LOVE all their "crispy fried ____" dishes, but the tofu is definitely my favorite. No one does anything close to it that I've found. Why go to others and hope they can do it right when I already know a place that does it perfectly, right? Heh.

          Their fried rices and other basic dishes are good, too. Yellow coconut curry is a bit sweet, but still good and flavorful. Love their vegetable dishes (even though I am not veggie). Will have to try their pork belly one day, but I rarely get to go anymore and am definitely out of their delivery range!

          Love the grocery store and their ready-made food, too! They usually have fried taro/banana/plaintain at the cash register. 3 pieces for $1. I usually get around $3 worth and eat it throughout the entire day (late breakfast to dinner). Sooooooo good. You'd think fried food wouldn't be good at room temp, but these are definitely worth it! And you can always heat up a bit in the oven if you want.

          I have to take metro + bus to get there now, but this thread is making me want to go there NOW!

          8 Replies
          1. re: yfunk3

            I have not been to Bangkok 54 in several years. My last visit to Thai Square was so bad that I haven't returned-it's been two years. Having said this I like Thai Luang on Elden street in Herndon so much that whenever Thai food comes up for discussion we cannot go anywhere else.
            Please choose spicy level: Mild, Medium, American, Thai.

            1. re: Joe H

              Thanks Joe. I will try to hit it this weekend.

              1. re: Joe H

                Agree on the food at Luang, but the last 2 or 3 times I had deplorable service.

                Tarin Thai is our primary go-to, even before my recent boycott of Luang.

                Today I had a nice lunch at Three Thai Sushi, especially their Tom Yum.

                1. re: Joe H

                  Thai by Thai on Route 7 in Sterling, same plaza as the Grand Mart, has a secret Thai menu. It is an order at the counter, food brought to your table sort of place, though the interior is a bit more upscale than a typical lunchonette. We are huge fans of the chinese broccoli with crispy pork, the crispy fried pork ribs, the pad see eew (with properly charred noodles!), and whatever the monthly specials happen to be. They have a lot of street-type foods on the Thai menu, and the monthly specials tend to be Thai dishes that you won't find on every Thai menu in America.

                  We haven't been back to Thai Luang since discovering Thai by Thai. We've been back to Tarin a few times, and their menu is a bit more extensive, but Thai by Thai's food is more addictive.

                  1. re: PollyG

                    I meant to mention Thai by Thai. I think I did in my first post and the site wasn't taking it properly. Anyway - I finally made it an I like it, too. Of the four now mention, Luang is now my least favorite (with Busara not being worth mentioning).

                    Polly - if you get to 3 Thai Sushi, try their veggie Tom Yum. Oh, Man!

                    1. re: Dennis S

                      Has anyone tried any of the "wild" dishes at Thai Luang? They are excellent.

                      1. re: Joe H

                        That's the general dish I seek out. Prefer the version at Tarin: Pad Peh Pah.

                        1. re: Dennis S

                          Assuming you mean Pad Ped Pah, Sakulthai does a very nice one as well.

              2. Thanks for the review. Bangkok 54 is good.

                FYI, Thai Square DOES deliver.