Cheap Eats 2007: Ruan Thai

The area’s best Thai cooking outside of Virginia is to be found in a dimly lit slip of a restaurant whose food is as uncompromising as it is delicious. Krisana Sucsopinunt, who does the cooking and runs the place with her sister and brother-in-law, doesn’t let her dishes give in to the sweetness that creeps into so much Thai cooking. Even better, she has an obvious love for the funky and tangy. The result is a roster of some 100 dishes that scarcely resembles what you usually find.

A plate of grilled beef is full of smoke from the grill, a grainy crunch from the rice flour tossed on top, and a sourness from liberal shots of lime and fermented fish sauce. The crispy duck with basil and chilies doesn’t deviate much from standard preparations, except that those are often dull while this one is fabulous, with strong hits of garlic and basil perfuming the crisp-skinned meat. And don’t miss a whole crispy fish, scored and bearing a creamy red-curry sauce.

For dessert, a superb rendition of sticky rice is topped with a luscious custard.

Open daily for lunch and dinner

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 Logan Circle.