Cheap Eats 2011: Bangkok 54

This Thai mainstay, with its potted orchids and wine list touting Cava and Côtes du Rhône, seems almost as stylish as a José Andrés restaurant. And although it doesn’t bill itself as a small-plates spot, we’ve had the most success lately treating it as one. The kitchen has mastered the chili/lime-juice/herb balance that makes cool salads of green papaya and larb gai (ground chicken) sing. Supplement them with such appetizers as the slender, wonton-wrapped firecracker shrimp and the cucumber-and-scallion-filled duck rolls. The curries and sautés are fine but don’t quite have the finesse of the starters. One exception is the crispy duck tossed with basil –a dish that the restaurant rightly hypes as its signature.

Also good: Shrimp salad with lemongrass; crispy fish with green mango; crispy pork belly with chili and basil; coconut ice cream.   

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.