Cheap Eats 2011: Kao Thai

Thai restaurants often employ vibrant color palettes, swathing themselves in purple, orange, and green. This slip of a place aims instead at the palate, sending out dishes of surprising depth and brightness. A red curry is so precisely rendered that the lushness of its coconut milk dulls neither the heat nor the tang. Pad kaprow is a perfectly balanced combination of thin-sliced chicken and fried basil leaves.

The menu might lack the range and flair that the best Thai places possess, but the kitchen executes dishes with rare precision–witness the wonton soup, made with house-made chicken stock; the delicate curry puffs; and the bikini shrimp fried in spring-roll wrappers.

Also good: Roti kanai, a buttery pancake with yellow-curry chicken; larb gai, a salad of ground chicken, lime, red onion, and fish sauce; fried Siam salmon with spicy Thai-basil sauce; spicy catfish; aromatic red Jungle Curry.

Open Monday through Saturday for lunch and dinner, Sunday for dinner.

Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute,, and Washington City Paper. He lives in Del Ray.