Food critic

The following review appears in The Washington Post’s 2018 Fall Dining Guide.

Gang Hung Lay (slow-cooked pork curry with side of sticky rice and lettuce wraps) at Elephant Jumps. (Deb Lindsey/for the Washington Post)

Elephant Jumps


Don’t bother with the chicken satay. Why waste the stomach space when there’s chicken soup, explosive with lime and lemon grass and tempered with coconut milk? Then again, plenty of Thai restaurants make a good soup. Fewer kitchens offer sliced, steamed banana blossoms, tossed with what tastes like an Asian pantry — fried shallots, preserved chile jam, mint, coconut milk, roasted garlic — and served as a sweet and racy salad with shrimp and chicken. The special makes frequent appearances on the chalkboard menu of this small shopping strip restaurant, whose chef, Panida Pinyolaksana, hails from northern Thailand and who has more where that banana blossom salad comes from: a fierce shredded papaya salad, a sweet and soothing pork curry. Her most distinctive dishes are found on the “authentic” section of the menu, which includes wide rice noodles, smoky from the wok, combined with crisp Chinese broccoli and garlicky marinated pork. It needs no embellishment, but add a splash of vinegar, ignited with green Thai chiles, and tell me it isn’t a superior, edgier experience. The chef’s husband and co-owner, Songtham, explains the name of the restaurant, decorated with animal art: The elephant is a symbol of Thailand, he says, and the couple’s hope is for their food to bring joy. Elephants can’t jump — but taste buds can, and do.

2 stars

Elephant Jumps: 8110 A Arlington Blvd., Falls Church. 703-942-6600.

Open: Lunch and dinner daily.

Prices: Mains $11-$35.

Sound check: 62 decibels / Conversation is easy.