Open Monday through Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. MC, V. Reservations unnecessary. Prices: Appetizers $1.95 to $4.25, main dishes $3.25 to $8. Full dinner with tax, tip and beer, about $15 per person.
While I was visiting Rama, word filtered through that I should also visit a little Thai restaurant that has been around a few years without getting the attention it deserves. One look at Ghin Na Ree (the mythical name for a half-bird, half-woman) and you can see why: jutting out from behind the Baskin-Robbins ice cream parlor in Arlington's Harrison Shopping Center, Ghin Na Ree looks more like a doughnut shop than a place to find an interesting ethnic meal.
Moreover, some of the dishes aren't particularly good. The spring rolls are greasy, the pork satay boring, and the spicy version of shrimp in lemon grass soup lacks any subtlety. Main courses are quite nice, though, judging from the few dishes we sampled. The curry is better here than at Rama, the chicken with basil leaves and chile is quite pleasant, and the odd-tasting pig's knuckles become rather interesting dipped in the green pepper sauce that accompanies them. (Many Thai dishes aren't complete until dipped in their particular sauce.)
The standout, however -- a dish I would walk a mile for -- is the spicy squid salad, which isn't even on the menu "because Americans don't usually like squid." This squid salad is delicious, but I warn you: don't even let them put it on the table until the guests have a bottle of beer in from of them, because this dish could be lethal. But what a way to die.
If beer isn't the Thai national drink, it probably ought to be, but if you don't watch yourself, Thai beer, which very much suits the food, can run your bill up. One alternative to beer is olyang, a sweet, thick iced coffee drink known popularly as Thailand's version of soda pop.
There are enough fans of Thai food east and west of the District to keep both of these establishments busy. I only wish they could get together and swap recipes, so we could get Rama's spring rolls and satay in Virginia and Ghin Na Ree's heart-sizzling squid salad in Silver Spring.