Cheap Eats 2007: Thai Basil

Owner and chef Nongkran Daks’s cookbooks are for sale on a sideboard at this charmingly cluttered cafe. Favorable reviews are tucked under glass at each table. Daks isn’t shy about trumpeting her successes. And why not? Her cooking is bright yet delicate, allowing flavors and textures to unfold and build to full effect.

Her crispy duck and basil, a frequent special, is the best in the area, crunchy yet chewy, sweet but not cloying. A pastelike pork, shrimp, and peanut dip is elevated by crisp house-made rice cakes that are good enough to eat alone. Salads have an appealing snap—nothing soggy here.

Ga Xao Phai with shredded chicken, cabbage, and mint is especially good. Gang Dang, the familiar Thai curry with basil and green beans (and a choice of pork, beef, or chicken), is enlivened with fresh bamboo shoots and red chili. For dessert, sticky rice can be had two ways—with custard or mango. Both are terrific.

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.