June 2006 Cheap EatsThis sweet Arlington dining room--the destination of choice for Thai expats who want a fix of home cooking--gets better and better. It elevates the familiar into something memorable while also making the unconventional feel comfortable.
Salads here are heaping mounds of crunch and texture, whether it's a tangle of green papaya with tomato and peanuts, flank steak with crunchy roasted rice, or minced pork and pork rind with ginger. Pad Thai is a perfect balance of sweet, tart, and fishy; pad see-ew (get it with pork) with caramelized rice noodles is a high point, too. Curries, such as the fiery country-style curry with eggplant, green beans, and a choice of meats, are intricate in flavor.
Adventure awaits in a plate of crunchy fried squid with basil--even the basil leaves are fried crisp--and a dish of catfish that gets a double whammy of chili peppers and paste. Even better is fragrant pig-knuckle stew, a braised knee-joint of pork with cinnamon and star anise. And chili-dusted, sun-dried beef or pork is fireworks on the palate.
Look to specials for sweets. Most revolve around sticky rice with ripe slices of mango or a spill of coconut cream.