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.
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.
Spice & Dice Thai Restaurant livens up meals with bold flavors and equally bold surroundings. Beginning with traditional family recipes and spices imported from Thailand, the chefs prepare a menu of homestyle Thai cooking with a near-perfect Zagat score. These dishes include familiar favorites, such as pan-seared duck with a tamarind sauce and homemade curries, along with many appetizers and entrees that can be prepared vegan or gluten-free.
The casual, homespun spirit of Spice & Dice's menu carries through to its whimsical decor. "Spice and Dice's decor is so playful you can't help but be in a good mood," wrote The Baltimore Sun. Moods become even lighter on Thursday evenings when the restaurant hosts live jazz performances.
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.
Though united by their name and a penchant for serving spicy Southeast Asian cuisine, each Sala Thai restaurant blazes its own culinary trail. Some dishes, such as the kee mao—flat rice noodles sautéed in hot chilis—sate diners' hungers at all locations, and other bites, such as M Street's red-curry pork with pineapple, can only be found in one place. To appease a variety of tastes, some locations also serve fresh, neatly rolled sushi. The Petworth, Bethesda, and U Street restaurants also calm customers' cravings for saxophone melodies and dark sunglasses worn indoors with live jazz performances on Fridays and Saturdays.