One of fall’s most anticipated openings has arrived: On Friday, chef Seng Luangrath of the popular Bangkok Golden in Falls Church opens Thip Khao, her first DC restaurant. While the Virginia eatery serves dishes from both Thailand and Laos, the 85-seat spot in Columbia Heights is geared solely toward the latter. Devotees of Thai cuisine will find some similar flavors, but if chef Seng’s cooking here is on par with the original eatery, expect to be converted. Here’s what to know before you go.
There’s a separate menu for adventurous eaters.
Heat-seekers and those on the hunt for exotic ingredients should start with the “let’s go to the jungle!” menu. Here you’ll find mouth-searing papaya salad with crab paste and chilies; spicy blood sausage; pounded snakehead fish with charred herbs; and laab siin dib, a Lao-style steak tartare with tripe. If the spice is overwhelming, try dipping into the basket of sticky rice accompanying each meal, which also gives the restaurant its name.
And options for those who like to customize.
Plenty of dishes play to tamer palates, and some come with a variety of options for proteins. Laab, a fragrant herb salad, can be ordered with minced chicken, duck, or tofu, while guests can pick between salmon, Chilean sea bass, and flounder for a dish of grilled fish wrapped in banana leaves with ginger and dill. One guaranteed table-pleaser: the crispy rice salad with sausage, served alongside lettuce wraps. Guests can also requests that plates come mild, medium, or “Lao hot.”
Drinks get creative, and shareable.
Cocktails play on flavors from the kitchen, such as a Scotch Old Fashioned with tamarind or Thai rum with chilies. Anyone opting for the spicier dishes may want to skip the hard booze and go for large-format beers poured over ice.
You may need reservations.
Tables are first come, first served for the grand-opening weekend, but the restaurant is already taking reservations for dinner starting on Monday. If the crowds are similar to Bangkok Golden on a busy night, consider booking.
There will be carryout, eventually.
Like the couch better than crowds? Chef Seng says the restaurant will offer carryout soon. Still, the warm-hued space with large wooden tables is serene, and worth a wait.
Thip Khao. 3462 14th St., NW; 202-387-5426. Open Sunday through Thursday 5 to 10, and Friday and Saturday 5 to 11.