Editors' pick

Thai Square

$$$$ ($14 and under)

Editorial Review

Thai Square gives you dozens of reasons to frequent the place. They include fish cakes mashed by hand with lime zest and curry paste, honey-roasted duck that announces itself as the fragrant dish gets close to your table, and green curry shrimp. The last, a recent special, combines springy black tiger shrimp and a coconut milk gravy that’s as refined as any I’ve ever encountered. What you won’t find at Thai Square is much atmosphere, or service that goes beyond “Ready to order?” and “Want another Singha?” The dining room is exactly what its name suggests: a square dressed with some colored panels. Not every dish is a hit, either. Pad Thai with tofu proves sweet and bland. But why would you order something so routine when the choices are so rich? Let me steer you to a fiery salad of frizzy fried tile fish and julienned mango, tender scored squid tossed with fried basil and red chilies, sun-dried strips of pork served with a dipping sauce that’s bold with tomato paste and fruity with papaya puree … you get the idea. Owner Sunthorn Rojural shops for the vegetables himself; his wife and chef, Mataporn, makes her curries in small batches. Their attention to detail pays off. When the Thai Embassy needs a caterer, Thai Square gets the call.

2014 Spring Dining Guide

2014 Spring Dining Guide
By Tom Sietsema
May 15, 2014

This unassuming storefront in Arlington is unlikely to get an award for its hospitality or win a prize for its design, and that’s just fine with owner Sunthorn Rojural. “We want to win customers with our food,” says the Bangkok native. I love his priorities. Even more, I treasure Thai Square’s epic menu, where even familiar dishes taste brighter, fresher, zestier than just about any competitor’s. Take the restaurant’s fish cakes, made in small batches from imported feather fish, mashed by hand with curry paste and lime zest and fried to a delicate crisp. Or duck marinated in honey, roasted, and fried to order with chilies and Thai basil, a glossy entree whose fragrant aroma precedes its arrival. Who knew that Chinese eggplant stir-fried with tofu could bring conversation to a halt? Every visit to the 18-year-old standard-bearer finds a new favorite. Right now, No. 12, nam sod, has my heart. Your lips will burn, you might break into a sweat, but chances are good, thanks to such fireworks as fresh ginger and lime juice, that you won’t leave a trace of the minced pork salad behind. Nam sod is a signature contribution of opening chef Nongyao Augustin and a salute to Northeast Thailand, where she’s from. While the senior citizen no longer cooks every day, she shows up for regular quality checks. Count me a huge fan — along with regulars Johnny Monis and his wife, the owners of that other Thai treasure, Little Serow, in the city.