The chefs at Lemongrass fill two different Annapolis eateries with visions of modern Thai cuisine. To do so, they keep an array of spices at their fingertips—dried red peppers, curry powder, kaffir-lime and basil leaves, ginger, and blades of that eponymous lemongrass. Pinches and spoonfuls of such seasonings lend nuanced flavors to a long list of dishes, including pad thai, sautéed mussels, panang curry, and pepper beef. Cocktails and desserts such as sticky rice with mango top off each meal with a tasteful style that recalls Abe Lincoln's signature cake hat.
If you haven't heard of Stang of Siam's Baltimore's Crab Fried Rice, it's time to get acquainted. Fried rice might seem like a surprisingly simple standout. But the Baltimore Sun proclaims the dish a perfectly executed "must-have" that is so elegantly plated, it "earns its place on a Saturday night table."
Stang of Siam has quickly built its reputation for serving dishes that taste as good as they look, which is no surprise coming from owner Chuchart "Bobby" Kampirapang, a DC-area chef also responsible for Dupont Circle's acclaimed The Regent. Duck gra prao is one of the more popular signature dishes, sweetening boneless, crispy duck with basil and chili-garlic sauce. That same sauce reappears in the restaurant's take on classic drunken noodles, but is refreshingly absent from its custard and sticky rice desserts.
When Thailand native Penelope Chungsakoon and her husband, Bangkok native Tom Chungsakoon, opened Thai Yum Restaurant in 2010, the Baltimore Sun declared it the city's "best Thai restaurant." It's a testament to the ardent work ethic of Penelope and Tom, who flavor each beautifully plated dish with spices hand-ground in their open kitchen.
Besides staples such as massamun curry, the duo crafts Thai specialties such as duck breasts coated in curry-roasted peanut sauce and frog legs saut?ed in garlic and chili paste. Feasts unfold inside a dining room of shiny hardwood flooring and white brick walls decorated with traditional artwork depicting animals such as dragons and elephants.
Sala Thai's multitalented chefs prepare fresh sushi rolls that share billing on the menu with traditional Thai cuisine. Meals begin with zesty appetizers such as Pinky in the Blanket—deep-fried shrimp swaddled in an egg-roll wrapper ($6.95). In a split second, the entire table vanishes and reappears in a cloud of curry-scented smoke, revealing sizzling entrees such as chicken lemongrass ($8.95–$12.95) and scallop pad phed with spicy hot chili, garlic, and bamboo shoots ($10.95–$14.95). The diner with the quickest chopstick draw will enjoy the first bite of sushi offerings that include the smoked-salmon-cream-cheese roll ($6).
The Washingtonian calls Ruan Thai's curries "authentically spiced"—meaning, nuanced instead of just hot. The chefs here hail from Thailand, and they complement their curries with house specialties such as stir-fried pork belly and seasonal seafood dishes, including deep-fried flounder and soft-shell crab.
The dining room at San Sushi Too & Thai One On defies all geographical logic. Turn one way, you're in Thailand; turn another, and you face Japan. On the Japanese side, "the service is rapid and polite and the sushi is fresh," according to the Baltimore Sun. Fourteen seats line the sushi bar, where the chefs prepare 18 creative house sushi specials. For the selection, just look to the chalkboard menus?or ask the chef to make an off-menu favorite, since they happily take requests.
Meanwhile in the kitchen, chefs pan-fry Japanese noodles and channel the flavors of Thailand into drunken noodles or panang goong: shrimp saut?ed with curry paste, coconut milk, and fresh basil. Baltimore City Paper praised the thom kha kai as "tangy and rich at the same time, a study in contrasts" in a 2002 roundup of the city's best soups. On the weekends, the restaurant also hosts live music and dancing once the dining room closes and the chefs fly back to their respective countries to sleep.