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Need a REALLY GOOD Thai restaurant (not americanized) in Northern Virginia

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Have been to the socalled good Thai restaurants like Crystal, Bangkok 54 and Thai Square and all have been spotty. Any suggestions?

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Thai Square
3217 Columbia Pike, Arlington, VA 22204

Bangkok 54 Restaurant and Bar
2919 S Columbus St, Arlington, VA 22206

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  1. Well, you could scroll down and read the buzz about the food counter in Duangrat's market:

    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7439...

    Also, Thai by Thai in Sterling has a special Thai menu that they kindly translate; dishes from that menu do not appear to be Americanized.

    4 Replies
    1. re: PollyG

      Duangrat's was probably one of the most authentic Thai restaurants back when I lived in Arlington some 26 years ago. Sounds like they still have it!

      1. re: chefj

        There's a significant difference between going to the food counter at the market and ordering off the menu at the restaurant. Same kitchen, but some of the better dishes are not on the menu. When I was there last, the menu at the food counter was not translated into English.

        1. re: Steve

          Still to have the same ownership putting out some of the best Thai food in the DC metro area for 30 years, pretty amazing!

      2. re: PollyG

        Do you know how Thai by Thai in Sterling compares to the branch in Fairfax?

        My two gripes with Thai by Thai is that the portions are too small and they are slightly more expensive than what I'm used to for thai food. Also, they serve their Khao Todd cold

      3. A lot of restaurants everywhere in the DC area are spotty. It is hard to give blanket recommendations.

        Furthermore, with Thai food even the better places are sometimes reluctant to give you the real deal. At Thai Square, for example, the servers will not readily admit that there are dishes on the Thai language menu that are different from the English menu, EVEN IF YOU POINT OUT TO THEM specific dishes. At best, they are aloof. Did you order off the Thai menu at Thai Square?
        At Thai Square, I like the sour curry off the Thai menu. Also, I saw them serving some fried eggs to a Thai business lunch, and they looked really good. Since it is such a simple dish, it might not appear on any menu.

        If you want to try something different, ask for the Lao menu at Bangkok Golden. It is in English. Ask to speak to the proprietress, she will be very helpful. Based on my one visit, she is a damn good cook. Link to my recent post:

        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7506...

        1. Thanks to Polly G and Dennis S for recommending Thai by Thai. There is now a second one in Fairfax which I discovered today.

          I was surprised when I stepped inside, and the place looked like corporate fast food. What was on the plate, however, was far from it. Thai ingredients, seriously spicy if you ask for it. We had the penang curry and the pad cha off the regular menu. I asked if they had any specials, but not yet at this location. I didn't ask if they had a Thai language menu. They offer three levels of spiciness, and the top level is Thai hot. Even the 2nd level will get your fluids going pretty good.

          Despite its fast food look, this is one of the top places for Thai food in the area.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Steve

            Interesting--I have not been to the second location though I spotted it near the Super H in Fairfax. The original location does not offer (or we've never noticed) different levels of spiciness but does have the wonderful Thai menu (with English translation).

            I hope they can survive in their Fairfax location at the corner of 50 and 29. It looks as if it would be difficult to get into that tiny strip mall.

            1. re: PollyG

              most of the thai menu made it to the regular menu in the new place. Food tastes the same in both which is nice. last couple of times we've been, the place has been full, so I don't think it's going to be an issue.

              1. re: PollyG

                They are clearly very business-minded going for the "fast casual" market. On their menu they have listed certain dishes as "1", and only one dish is listed as a "2". If you want "3" you have to ask for it. We asked for the penang curry as a "3", and it was blazing hot. The "2" was very hot and would satisfy almost any hothead.

                According to them they also have a monthly special at the original location, if I understood correctly.

            2. Okay I know there might be some disagreements, but Thai Pilin in Tysons Corner is THE best Thai in the area.

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              Thai Pilin Restaurant
              8385 Leesburg Pike, Vienna, VA 22182

              12 Replies
              1. re: takadi

                I like Thai Pilin. I particularly like their pungent fish sauce dishes, and they make a mean lamb dish, too. There's good reason that the place is bursting at the seams at lunchtime. That being said, I prefer Thai by Thai for their absurdly good frying, balanced spicing, and smoky wide noodles. The smokiness of their pad see eww noodles is a thing of beauty.

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                Thai Pilin Restaurant
                8385 Leesburg Pike, Vienna, VA 22182

                1. re: PollyG

                  Pilin uses noodles that are too thin for me, but it is decent, especially their pad see ew. I ordered the lad na off the thai menu at Thai by Thai and it definitely beats the lad na at Thai pilin. The noodles were perfectly cooked, blackened around the edges the way I like it. They also had something interesting to it. I wasn't sure if it was the hard ends of the garlic or something else, but when I bit into it, it exuded a very perfumy floral aroma. I kinda liked it

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                  Pilin Restaurant
                  116 W Broad St, Falls Church, VA 22046

                  1. re: takadi

                    if pilin in tysons is great, its little brother in falls church is far from it. their pad kee mao didn't even use fresh noodles! grrrr.

                    1. re: alkapal

                      I believe their is no relationship between the two. One is Thai Pilin and the other is Pilin Thai, though I have no idea which is which.

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                      Thai Pilin Restaurant
                      8385 Leesburg Pike, Vienna, VA 22182

                      Pilin Restaurant
                      116 W Broad St, Falls Church, VA 22046

                      1. re: Steve

                        oooh, i always though they were related. <edit: the website covers both locations
                        http://pilinthairestaurant.com/ >. mr. alka likes their spicy crispy catfish specialty.

                        it has been years since we went to the one on leesburg pike, but it wasn't great shakes then. maybe it is better nowadays.

                        1. re: alkapal

                          Alka, your comment about spicy catfish dishes reminded me of a seafood restaurant on the Chao Phraya River that feeds the fish (mostly catfish) from the pier in front of the restaurant every hour or so. It is a huge scene, big, aggressive catfish rolling over each other on the surface of the river trying to get the food. And oddly enough, that restaurant has the freshest, most delicious catfish curry! Wonder how that works? Grin

                          1. re: Ziv

                            hahaha, i wonder too!

                            i could just picture the guys down at the d.c. waterfront out there on the potomac getting catfish like this. yummy!

                            1. re: alkapal

                              There are some sizable fish in the Potomac got a report last year of someone catching a 75lb catfish they also have large rockfish in there. Due to the high heavy metals in the water I would not advice eating them

                              1. re: agarnett100

                                These may not be 75 pounds but there are a lot of them! Not sure if the picture will have the detail you need to see them, but there were a more than several.

                                 
                                1. re: agarnett100

                                  The Potomac's no cleaner than the Chao Phraya - so take that as you will!

                              2. re: Ziv

                                Wow that is quite a brilliant strategy actually. Charge people for fish food to feed the fish. They do all the work for you, and you catch the fattened fish for your restaurant.

                                1. re: Ziv

                                  The same scene at a catfish place on the Banana River in Cocoa Beach. So thick you could walk on them. Great fried catfish there as well.

                    2. Try Courtside Thai in Old Town Fairfax. Owners are extremely friendly and remembered us on the 2nd visit. They grow their own herbs and peppers. Outside dining in nice weather. Everything we have tired has been outstanding.

                      1. i enjoyed lunch yesterday at sakulthai (van dorn, near edsall rd. in alexandria) on sweth's recommendation a while back. $7.95 gets you a spring roll, soup and a main dish. their regular menu is also available.

                        of course, i had to get papaya salad, and then drunken noodles lunch special. i liked the wok char (requested "well-done" and didn't get the "what in the heck is that?" look). the noodles' saucing is a little off (too much oyster sauce, or rather it was a bit out of balance), but i doctored with the spice tray. the portion size is about half of what is offered at ghin na ree. the spring roll was typical, and i guess the best thing is that it is hot and crunchy. the soup was a good size and was real tom yum soup, not just a broth with scallions and bean thread noodles like ghin na ree.

                        i would go again to sakulthai if i were in the area.

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: alkapal

                          I have been to Sakulthai a couple times for the floating market soup, which I can't for the life of me remember the Thai name for. It has a really meaty taste part of which I think is pigs blood, but I am not sure. It is just full of noodles, eye of round slices and meatballs, very good stuff.

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                          Sakulthai
                          408 S Van Dorn St, Alexandria, VA 22304

                          1. re: Ziv

                            If you convince the waitstaff that you like authentic Thai food, you can get the floating market soup w/ tendon and fried pork rinds, which takes it to another level.

                            Man. It's been too long since I've had that soup. I need to get back there soon.

                            1. re: sweth

                              I didn't know that. I order my Pho Tai Nam Gan so it has tendon in it for flavor and it really does add a layer of complexity and 'roundness'. What is the Chinese word for a foods' mouth feel? Because that is what tendon adds.
                              And the pork rinds, that is funny, I remember the sidewalk vendors putting them on some bowls of soup but not others, I never even thought about them.

                              1. re: Ziv

                                I think the Chinese word you're looking for is "kou gan". Also, the soup's name is "gway dtieow reua" (literally "boat noodle").

                                (I'm a Pho Tai Gan Gau (eye round, fatty brisket, and tendon) guy myself.)

                            2. re: Ziv

                              Went to Sakulthai with my family and remembered this post, so I decided to get the floating market soup.

                              No thanks

                            3. re: alkapal

                              totally second rec on sakulthai . took my two sons 10 and 12 years old. the green curry is off the charts spicy!! best Thai i've had in a while!