100 Very Best Restaurants: #62 – Esaan

Basil-and-tofu rolls, Crying Tiger steak, and fried rice at Esaan. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

Every Thai restaurant has a papaya salad, but this northeastern Thai spot shows off five versions. The one you don’t want to miss is the fermented-fish-enhanced somtum muor, loaded with eggplant, pickled greens, green beans, and pork rinds, plus rice noodles that mimic strands of papaya. In fact, every dish here tastes amped up. Khao soi comes in a vividly spiced coconut curry. But it’s the whole fried rockfish smothered in herbs, cashews, and lime dressing that draws the most “oohs.” The fish is cut into chunks, then crisped golden brown, so no need to worry about bones. Inexpensive.

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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.

Anna Spiegel
Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.

Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.