“Serious authentic Thai cooking” may sound like hyperbole, especially when it’s printed on a sprawling menu, but husband-and-wife owners Songtham and Panida Pinyolaksana aren’t exaggerating. He hails from southern Thailand, she comes from the north, and a full spectrum of flavors is represented between the two poles: spicy, sour, bright, earthy. An incandescent papaya salad arrives with sticky rice and pork rinds to balance its heat, while braised pork curry in a tamarind-rich sauce tastes like Thai comfort fare. Thankfully, originality isn’t lost in favor of tradition—fried flatbread acts as a crunchy base for shrimp toast—and the welcoming staff isn’t so serious that they won’t tame the heat if you ask, or whip up a tasty pad Thai.
Where you can get it: 8110-A Arlington Blvd., Falls Church; 703-942-6600
Also good: Fried-watercress salad; wok-seared noodles with pork and Chinese broccoli; crab stir-fry in yellow curry; green curry chicken with roti.