The metro area's other Thai restaurants have easy-to-understand names for xenophobic Americans. There's Thai Flavor, Thai House, Thai Kingdom, the Thai Room, Thai Square Cafe, Thai Taste and Thai Town. And then there's Thai 89.

True, it once seemed like a reasonable name for the Adams-Morgan restaurant. Even last year it appeared to be merely an oversight when the neon sign didn't change with the times. But now we're vexed. Why Thai 89?

Even owner David Chow sadly admits that while his employ- ees find it easy to memorize the menu, they can't seem to remember the reasoning behind the restau- rant's name.

Chow, who also owns Mooshi Magic and two Pan-Asian Noodle & Grill restaurants, says there are three simple reasons.

"Number one: I started the business in '89.

"Number two: In Chinese the pronunciation of the number eight means 'successful' and nine means 'longevity.' "

But what possibly could be the significance of the Chinese pronunciation of a Thai restaurant name? (At least some Americans know a little geography.)

"Correct. They are two very different cultures. But what most Americans don't know is that most Thai restaurants are owned by Chinese people like myself," Chow says and, without the slightest sign of irritation over the interruption, continues.

"And number three: Neon is so expensive! Can you imagine how much it would cost if we were Bangkok Gardens instead?"