Two for Thai
New establishments add spice to Silver Spring and Shaw
By Tom Sietsema
Sunday, July 17, 2011
One of my litmus tests for a Thai restaurant is pad Thai, that soft-crisp jumble of rice noodles, bean sprouts, fish sauce and crushed peanuts that too frequently panders to an American penchant for sugar. Beau Thai, a recent addition to Shaw, passes muster for its restrained use of sweetener (the noodles are cooked in tamarind juice) but also for the fresh company the staple keeps.
The kitchen serves compelling reasons just to graze among appetizers. Minced shrimp, chicken, pork and water chestnuts bound in see-through rice paper make for tasty steamed dumplings. Grilled pork sausage gets a lift from lemon grass and kaffir lime leaves in its seasoning, and threads of ginger, sharp onion and peanuts on its plate. Shrimp cakes are flat, round, crisp: schnitzel by way of the sea. Shredded ginger and roast duck find themselves paired in a thin wrap of roti, with a sweet hoisin sauce for dunking. In contrast, vegetable-and-tofu-stuffed garden rolls taste as if they're missing something, namely flavor.
Forge on. Green curry with pork delights with its herbs and heat. Massaman curry suggests a pot roast by way of Bangkok. Red curry prepared with tofu, eggplant and bamboo shoots adds up to a meaty meatless feast.
One of the three principals of the restaurant is Aschara Vigsittaboot. Her last name might ring a bell for fans of the tiny Thai X-ing in LeDroit Park, which enjoys a cultlike following, thanks to her brother, chef-owner Taw Vigsittaboot. Beau Thai's bigger kitchen (and four cooks, all women) means a broader menu; what began as a carryout in August is now an airy dining room with alternating lavender and soft-gray walls and a sea of white chairs arranged on a black floor. Enlarged black-and-white photographs add a personal touch. One of them is of a smiling teenage Aschara Vigsittaboot; the other captures her 80-year-old mother in younger days.
Another intimate touch: "Scott's Favorite," a reference to one of the owner's friends who helped design the menu. The stir-fry brings together tender slices of lemon-grass-marinated chicken and a light wash of oyster and soy sauces. Like Beau Thai, the dish is easy to like.
Click here for the accompanying review of Kao Thai