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.
Colorful, pan-Asian dishes piled high with generous portions emerge hot out of the wok from the kitchen at Chopstixx Cafe. Sifting through the pages of the vast menu, diners will find familiar classics composed of super-fresh ingredients, including spicy General Tso's chicken and pad thai, as well as specialty dishes such as the steamed "Revolution Diet," which features tender shrimp and an array of healthy veggies. The kitchen also whips up crave-worthy bubble teas in fancy flavors such as lychee, passionfruit, and red bean.
The Thai cuisine at Cha Ya Asian Bistro is accented by creative sushi rolls. Playful flourishes characterize the bistro’s dining room, from retro sci-fi hanging lamps to mod chairs that encircle the bar and tables along the curved wall of windows. The colors, both in the décor and sushi, compliment the culinary traditions of Thailand, which emphasizes spices in a range of brilliant reds, greens, and yellows. Patrons settle down near a sun-drenched yellow wall, sampling those flavors in curries, bowls of lemongrass seafood or chicken, and crispy duck. The sushi chefs show off their artistic inclinations in rolls packed with or broiled salmon or other maki folded into the shape of a heart like a poet’s tax returns.