Bangkok 54

Often excellent cooking paired with spiffy cocktails and a lounge-like setting.

June 2006 Cheap Eats

Too often the glitziness of Thai restaurants is in direct correlation to the blandness of what comes out of the kitchen. You don"t have to choose between great cooking and good looks at this family-run spot.

It's got an array of fruity martinis and single-malt Scotches and the feel of a stylish, low-lit lounge. But it isn't shy about flavor. "Fiery" and "spicy" are the adjectives of choice (the staff will tone down the heat if you ask). But many dishes are studies in hot and cool. Green-papaya salad, sprinkled with peanuts, fish sauce, and lime, is both refreshing and sweat-inducing. Mint and roasted-rice powder help soothe the burn from the grilled-beef salad. Catfish; shredded, quickly fried, and set atop a mango salad; almost melts in the mouth and leaves the fire on your tongue. Lusher preparations include pork belly, lined with ribbons of fat, and roasted duck, both sauteed with chilies and basil.

There are good renditions of red, green, and Mussaman curries, too. Don't miss dessert; especially the coconut ice cream, served in a hollowed coconut shell, and bua loi, balls of taro in a martini glass with coconut cream.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.