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Stacy Zarin Goldberg/For The Washington Post

Thai X-ing will never be easy to access, but the restaurant continues to make its unorthodox hospitality worthwhile.

The moment you’re seated, the food starts showing up. My hunch is that having so many regular customers, the small staff no longer introduces the dishes unless called upon to do so. “Cucumber soup,” responds a server to my party’s quizzical looks regarding some steaming bowls of golden broth. A little log of soft cucumber bobs in the center, a pleasant surprise at its core: minced pork seasoned with crushed white pepper seeds, cilantro and garlic.

Everyone recognizes the green papaya salad, though some diners are not prepared for the fire in the toss of julienned tropical fruit, halved cherry tomatoes, crisp green beans and crushed peanuts. The appetizer is a torch-bearer. Chef Taw Vigsittaboot, who hails from the zesty part of Thailand, does not pull punches when it comes to heat.

Like every good Thai practitioner, however, this one balances heat with sweet, sour, salty and bitter notes in his cooking. A cool salad of sliced beef, fresh mint and toasted rice is followed by soft pumpkin draped with creamy red curry, which creates a hush as it is being explored. Robust comfort food has that effect. Chicken drumsticks, cooked so that their meat falls away from the bones, are sweet with palm sugar and tart with tamarind sauce.

Sunday nights are a treat, even if you aren’t a vegetarian. The drill is the same – the food just shows up, and the meal runs to five or so courses – except for the absence of meat. Trust me: You won’t miss it. Not when there is coconut milk soup brimming with sliced mushrooms, silky tofu and celery and shocked with lemon grass. Not when the meal is punctuated with sweet-and-sour tofu with baby corn and ribbons of carrot, or fleshy pumpkin and green beans moistened with mild panang curry. Somewhere in the feast you might also revel in steamed soybean sprouts combined with a party of fried garlic, sour peppers, soft onions and delicate snow peas.

What Thai X-ing sometimes lacks in finesse, it often makes up for in satisfied appetites – and oddball anecdotes you’ll want to share later.

— Tom Sietsema (Nov. 6, 2011)