March 2006 Best Bites: Hidden Eats
Lofty Curries From a Basement Kitchen
Some of the city's best Thai cooking isn't being done in a restaurant. It's coming from the English basement of a townhouse around the corner from Howard University Hospital–a takeout operation with a cult following called Thai X-ing.
Owner Taw Vigsittaboot has the work ethic of a short-order cook, but his cooking is as attuned to details as his mixed-media sculptures, on view in the tiny sitting room lined with art books and Buddhist texts. His larb gai is sharper and hotter than most renditions of this tangy ground-chicken dish. Spring rolls are rolled as tightly as Cohibas, producing a crunch even after they've been sitting in the takeout bag.
Curries are his specialty. A salmon in red curry proves the benefits of slow-cooking sauce and protein together, a method that high-volume Thai kitchens dispense with. The oils from the fish enrich the fiery coconut-milk broth while the broth infuses the poaching fish.
Prices won't try your budget, but the waits–expect to sit a half hour or more, even after calling ahead–may try your patience. As the sitting room's copy of The Dhamapadda urges, one must learn to perceive the world with tranquil serenity.