Chef Seng Luangrath makes no apologies when it comes to the spicy, pungent flavors of her native Lao cuisine. Of her two restaurants, Thip Khao in Columbia Heights is sleeker and more adventurous. Its “jungle” menu encourages diners to try odd bits like fried pig ears and grilled chicken hearts, and it doesn’t shy away from heat that elicits tears (the good kind). Meanwhile, Falls Church’s Bangkok Golden excels in fragrant eggplant-and-dill stews and spiced fish filets steamed in banana leaves. Both menus contain a lot of delicious overlap, including noodle soups, lime-and-herb-dressed larbsalads, and a can’t-miss crispy-rice dish with sour pork. Inexpensive to moderate.
Also great: Curry puffs; green-papaya salad; khao poon (coconut-curry noodle soup); gaeng som (spicy-sour lemongrass soup); fish lettuce wraps with pineapple-chili sauce; grilled pork neck (Thip Khao only).