Green-blue lights illuminate the oversized oceanic mural, hitting the paint in such a way that the tropical fish, coral, and whale seem to come to life. The underwater scene—complete with a sunken pirate ship—is the centerpiece of Tara Thai’s dining room, which accompanies décor such as a molded wave that spans the front of the bar, plates painted with colorful fish, and dangling lights fashioned to look like jellyfish.
With the aquatic ambience, you might make the mistake of thinking Tara Thai serves nothing but seafood. But in reality, dishes like fresh mussels with lemongrass and chili sauce are only part of the lineup of traditional Thai dishes. Those traditional offerings include the Chef recommended spicy roasted tofu and honey duck curry, as well as classics like crispy spring rolls which, despite their name, are served year-round.
Take three Thai friends with extensive knowledge of their native land's cuisine and drop them in suburban D.C. with a mission to reach the area's urban exiles, and you get something like My Thai Place. The restaurant is a seamless blend of the traditional and the contemporary: diners savor Thai dishes inspired by homemade recipes among sophisticated design elements such as high-backed wall booths and an ornamental chandelier. Servers in black ties usher over the popular chicken pad thai, which pairs well with drinks made by the skillful mixologists who stand behind the blue-lit bar or levitate above it on days when gravity is light.
The menu at ThaiDeelish Restaurant may not have chapters or a plot, but it has the heft and scope to rival many a novel. The pages overflow with the ingredients that give character to traditional Thai dishes: basil, pineapple, chili paste, and coconut. Most of the dishes move diners to bring out their Magic 8 Balls in order to decide among chicken, beef, pork, or vegetables and tofu, flavored with sauces of garlic and oyster or roasted chili. Predecided pairings include crispy pork with basil as well as honey-roasted duck with sautéed broccoli.
As diners sink their pitchforks into steaming jasmine rice or tangles of noodles, they can soak in the dining room’s atmosphere, made cheery by sunflower-yellow walls decorated with snapshots of flowers and temples .
At Vannipa Thai restaurant, cooks introduce tastebuds to the complex, perfectly balanced flavors of Thai cuisine with dishes culled from all-natural, MSG-free ingredients. Like a Rodin sculpture made of marzipan, each dish is an edible masterpiece: Bone-white dishes frame colorful peppers and coriander leaves, slices of Thai eggplant, or morsels of roasted duck and fried fish. Palm sugar sweetens papaya salad and pad Thai, whereas spicy Thai peppers and curries add piquant notes to dishes including chicken stir fry and steamed rockfish.
At Burapa Thai's two locations in Arlington and Leesburg, the dishes on the menu tantalize with a fragrant cocktail of spices. The aromas of marinated beef mingle with those of honey, Thai herbs, and garlic, and crispy duck crackles sharply beneath sauce and basil leaves. Waiters pass through the dining room toting plates that highlight seafood and shrimp as well as lard na, a type of wide rice noodle. With steam from curries melding coconut, shrimp, and eggplant, chefs behind Burapa's sushi bar roll up eel and salmon held together by seaweed like Robinson Crusoe’s flat-screen TV. Amid the Arlington location’s booths, abstract tile work, and rich wood paneling, guests admire fresh-cut flowers.