All Thai'd Up in Dupont Circle

The explosion on the number of Thai restaurants can be a bit perplexing to those
epicureans who have been eating in these establishments since before the boom.
What used to be a simple point of reference--"We'll meet at the Thai restaurant in
Boston"--now requires a great deal more elucidation: "We'll meet at the Thai
restaurant on the corner of 12th and Main. No, not the one with the duck in the
window. No, not the one across the street. You know, the new one a few doors down
between the Vietnamese restaurant and the sushi place."

What is more, the names of these restaurants are often little help in identifying them,
as they seem to blend into one, often combining the word THAI with another generic
word such as ROOM, TASTE, GARDEN, or KITCHEN. Some of the restaurants may
alter this slightly and use the word BANGKOK or the more historic SIAM as their
modifier (as in Bangkok Bistro), but these too have become tired. One reliably
delicious local Thai restaurant here in Washington goes by the unique name of 4912
Thai Cuisine, which sensibly highlights its Wisconsin Avenue street address. But this is
the exception, with more restaurants than not choosing the former approach, and
generally including some form of alliteration or pun in their name. I haven't yet actually
seen restaurants with the moniker Thai One On or Siam Enchanted Evening, but I'm
sure they exist somewhere.

All of which brings us to the relatively new and already quite popular Thaiphoon,
located off Connecticut Avenue, just north of Dupont Circle, With a large windowed
seating area, Thaiphoon offers a brightly sunlit spot for a meal, and even the crowded
quickly in and out.

Thaiphoon's menu presents a good mix of dishes, although it boasts little that can't
be found at other Thai restaurants in the area. The appetizers include mainstays like
satay and mee grob (crispy noodles with tamarind sauce) as well as curry puffs and
fish cakes. The chicken ginger salad, topped with peanuts in a lime dressing, was
quite delicious and had a nice bite to it. The steamed veggie dumplings were tasty but
a little doughy, while the papaya salad was quite good. An interesting and especially
enticing (as well as probably healthier) variation on a standard theme were the fresh
steamed egg rolls, which were stuffed with bean sprouts, cucumbers, scrambled egg,
and tofu. However, they are not a regular nemu item. The entrees were generally
good, although few were especially distinguished. The peppery garlic chicken (which
also can come served with pork or shrimp) was among the best of those sampled, as it
was light and delicious. So too was the chicken with asparagus, which also came
served in a garlic sauce. The drunken noodles, standard Thai restaurant fare, was just
average. The two curries sampled--green chicken and red duck--both boasted flavorful
coconut milk-based sauces, the duck replete with cherry tomatoes and pineapples
and the green chicken with the more traditional Thai basil and bamboo shoots.
Unfortunately, the fatty quality of the duck meat reduced the overall enjoyment of that
dish. Least appetizing of the entrees we sampled were the deep-fried string beans,
which, thoughj nicely spiced, unfortunately were overly battered and lived up to all the
negative connotations of the phrase DEEP-FRIED.

All the deserts, however, were excellent, including the traditional mango and sticky
rice, covered with sweetened coconut milk, as well as the extremely delicious crispy
banana, which is battered with almonds and served wrapped in a spring roll shell with
honey and sesame seeds. For the complete treat, make sure you get it with an ice
cream accompaniment.

One thing worth noting about Thaiphoon is the generous size of its sweet Thai iced
coffee, a feature that helps ensure that even the diner who may put away a large
lunch will remain awake at his or her desk throughout the afternoon.

Appetizers and soups, $3.95 to $6.95; entrees, $5.95 to $14.95. Lunch for two, not
including alcohol, $26 to $36

Alexander Wohl

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