Red Curry

Asian, Chinese, Japanese, Thai
$$$$ ($15-$24)
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Editorial Review

Tom Sietsema wrote about Red Curry for a January 2010 First Bite column.

Andy Ruenarom and his family co-own Mai Thai at 6 King St. in Old Town Alexandria. It was curious, then, to hear they opened a second, similar-sounding restaurant, Red Curry, nearby.

The idea for another dining room on the same street came from patrons at Mai Thai who wanted more selection, including sushi, but also a respite from the lines that formed outside the five-year-old restaurant, says Ruenarom: On summer weekends, two-hour waits for a table were not unusual. "We needed to accommodate the overflow," says the restaurateur.

Moreover, the concept is totally different, he says: Mai Thai is casual and serves one cuisine, while the new place, which opened in October, is splashier and stretches to Japanese, Chinese and other Asian dishes.

That variety extends to the design, which weaves a sculpture of a Japanese samurai on the ground floor with antique Chinese doors on the wall leading to the second floor and Thai silk cloth draped over crystal chandeliers upstairs. The mostly white palette that distinguished the previous tenant, 100 King, has been replaced with accents of black, gold and red in Red Curry's two dining rooms.

Too bad you can't graze on the scenery. The kitchen as I experienced it on a recent Saturday night was not up to the task of juggling General Tso's chicken (dry) and crispy flounder (past its prime). Nor was the sushi counter sending out much to remember (the plainer the selection the better, and by all means, avoid the sea urchin, which was bitter, and the gloppy rolls). The steamed shrimp-and-pork dumplings were decent and the Thai-style beef salad teased with fresh lime, but those dishes didn't show up until after we reordered our meal twice, from two servers. Red Curry's staff is pleasant, if inefficient.

There's a red curry on the menu, too, which I didn't try. Honestly, I'm not inclined to investigate.

Entrees, $10.95-$25.95

(Jan. 27, 2010)