The wrong address was given for Lord Jim's restaurant in last week's Virginia Weekly. The correct address is 8330 Old Courthouse Rd. in Vienna. (Published 2/11/88)
9330 Old Court House Rd., Vienna
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Monday through Friday; 5 to 10:30 p.m. Saturday. Bar open until midnight every night. Closed Sunday.
Prices: Lunch $1.95 to $8.95; dinner appetizers and soups $2.50 to $6.95; entrees $5.75 to $14.95.
Cards: American Express, MasterCard, Visa. Nonsmoking section available.
There's a new Thai restaurant in the Tycon II building near Tysons Corner. The location is not easy to find and zoning restrictions complicate the posting of a prominent sign. Turnover at this location has been swift; in the last two years, French and Italian restaurants have closed.
The owner of this Thai/American restaurant, who also owns the former Lord Jim's, now Chadsey's, in the District, has kept the attractive mauve and white decor of the previous Italian restaurant, although two ceremonial Thai statues have been placed among the hand-painted Italian platters on display at the back of the narrow dining room. A white lacquer grand piano, which is played on Saturday evenings, reinforces the formal look of the interior.
While the menu is more sophisticated here than at most other Thai establishments in Northern Virginia, dishes tend to arrive more cautiously seasoned than I would prefer. Apparently this is by design. In an effort to please most of the people most of the time, the owner has instructed the kitchen to tone down the spicier dishes, leaving it up to each diner to add ground red peppers, fish sauce or spicy vinegar.
If you like your Thai food hot, I encourage you to request it that way; one of the best dishes I had was a crispy whole fish, fiery with peppers and pungent with basil.
The lunch menu is evenly divided between Thai specialties and American-style sandwiches, omelettes and salads, while at dinner, the menu is predominantly Thai. Prices are moderate with most entrees under $10 except some seafood and duck offerings.
For starters, I would give a slight edge to the soups such as the hot and sour shrimp soup highly redolent of lemon grass. The chicken and coconut milk soup was pleasant, but was one example of cautious seasoning -- light on the traditional hot peppers and galanga (a ginger-like root). I was a bit cautious about trying the sardine lemon grass soup, but found it to be a wonderful, tomatoey broth sparked by lemon and infused with basil. Other diners, it appears, were not intrigued, and it has recently been dropped from the menu.
Appetizers had minor flaws. The thick strips of pork satay were slightly tough and the peanut dip was sweet enough to pass for frosting. Despite their chewiness, the fried curry shrimp patties had a good flavor -- almost like breakfast sausage -- and were nicely complemented by a sweet and hot vinegar dip. A similar dip with an abundance of chopped peanuts was wonderful, but the snippets of fried bean curd had no textural appeal.
The entrees were more successful, ranging from the deliciously elegant ped nam mun hoi, slices of rolled duck stuffed with minced pork topped with a rich, sweet oyster sauce ($13.95), to the pungent pa nang nua, tender strips of beef sauteed in a coconut/curry sauce infused with the aromatic flavor of fresh basil ($8.95).
I also enjoyed the marinated sirloin ($8.95), seasoned with garlic and white pepper, sliced against the grain, although the strong-tasting dip of fish sauce and hot peppers should be used sparingly. The garlic/white pepper combination also enhanced a dish of stir-fried chicken with mushrooms.
The stir-fried noodle dish, pad Thai, had sweet shrimp but was not as distinctive or as satisfying as other versions. Ditto for a nicely prepared but lackluster spicy pork with green beans.
For dessert, there is a soothing caramel custard as well as pecan pie, carrot cake and cheesecake.
Service ranged from distracted to overly solicitous, but sparse dinner crowds have yet to test the staff's overall performance.
If you've never tried Thai cuisine, Lord Jim's, with its attractively prepared, moderately seasoned food and polished setting, may be a good place to start.