No. 47: Thai Square
Is the decor—there’s just a single stripe of red paint marking the white-walled room—a thumbing of the nose at its style-conscious competitors? Maybe. Or maybe the folks at this Arlington cafe are simply too busy turning out the area’s best Thai food.
The menu can be divided roughly into two kinds of dishes. There are the dishes you thought you knew, rendered new by a kitchen that goes the extra step, as with hae kuen —a pressed-pork-and-shrimp roll whose skin is made of bean curd—an irresistible stir-fry of eggplant and basil, or a plate of honey-roasted strips of duck battered and plunged into the fry basket until they crunch. Then there are the dishes that you never knew existed but that you might return for: a heady tripe soup that will banish the memory of watery, lemongrass-dominated soups at lesser establishments, and a cilantro-strewn pig’s-knuckle stew with fried lettuce, its notes of cinnamon and star anise lifting the humble ham hock into something fine.
All this, plus gracious service and cheap beers to wash it all down. If there’s a word of caution, it’s about the curries, which have been noticeably thinner, perhaps the result of a switch in chefs this summer.