After 12 years of serving straight Thai food at Bangkok Joe’s, the owners of the Georgetown restaurant were ready to try something new. So they closed the dining room in June, revamped the look of the space and the style of the menu and rolled out a new brand called Mama Rouge in October.

The replacement, says co-owner and chef Aulie Bunyarataphan, is a nod to her grandmother, whose Thai name translates into English as Red. Mama Rouge, the servers sometime explain, serves Southeast Asian dishes tweaked for an American palate, along with a few Gallic notions.

The dining room at Mama Rouge, a new Southeast Asian bistro in Washington. (Kate Patterson/For The Washington Post)

The rethought dining room marries vintage with modern, with lots of red, back-friendly banquettes, an arty ceiling and a zinc-paved bar that dispenses good cheer and potent drinks. Design-wise, only the noise would deter me from returning.

But then I’d have to graze here. And truth be told, the roster of pho, curry, barbecue, banh mi and daily-changing French specials, fish stew and steak au poivre among them, offers little to draw me back.

Care to hear my organ recital? The saving grace of the dry bao buns stuffed with pork belly is the cucumber kimchi to offset the cloying ginger-scallion sauce. Nothing like the refreshing and nuanced tropical toss I’ve had in Thailand, green papaya salad smacks more of salt than of lime or heat. A supposedly Malaysian curry with shrimp and tofu is stingy with both enhancers; its brick-colored gravy registers mainly as dull heat on the tongue. And both the shrimp and the pork dumplings are clunkers wrapped in what tastes like starched tissue paper.

The lemon grass pork banh mi at Mama Rouge. (Kate Patterson/For The Washington Post)

Peppery pork and a fistful of vaguely pickled julienned vegetables packed into a blimp-size baguette will not remind diners of any Vietnamese sandwich they’ve had at Eden Center in Falls Church. But the sub surpasses much of the rest of the menu.

The servers are a friendly bunch. Conscientious, too. When one of them sees how little I’ve eaten from three different plates on my table, she volunteers to box up the leftovers. When I decline, she appears to read my mind when she asks, “They don’t pass the take-home test?”

Customer feedback is expected to bring about some changes: more vegetarian choices, crisper chicken dishes and less-bready banh mi, Bunyarataphan says.

My fingers are crossed. Right now, save for a robust chicken wing or a tender scallion-crab pancake, her kitchen has nowhere to go but up.

3000 K St. NW. 202-333-4422. Entrees, $12 to $28.