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Ericandblueboy

Esaan Tumbar (Formerly Social Restaurant & Oyster Bar) - Northeastern Thai in Downtown McLean - Owned by Pasa Thai

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On 1/29/2016 at 10:43 PM, Ericandblueboy said:

Social Oyster Bar is apparently a new restaurant in McLean.  The menu looks somewhat interesting.  I'll probably take the kids there tomorrow night to check it out.  Anyone else been?

I haven't been, but there sure looks like a hint of Rogue on that website.

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It's in the strip mall with Evo Bistro. They cook the seafood until it's just barely cooked, great for people who love to straddle that raw/cooked texture. Both the mussels and shrimp were served that way. They also take reservations by phone at this point. It's a small restaurant so go early or call in advance. The prices are slightly higher than Evo, but I think the food is executed at a higher level.

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Its owned & operated by the Pasa Thai folks (who produce a good Thai product).  We have tried to go several times but its been closed after a recent opening.  Menu looks really interesting but the room seems, uh, less than inviting and warm from the outside.  Other reports would be appreciated, esp on the drinks.

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On 1/30/2016 at 1:31 PM, wristband said:

Its owned & operated by the Pasa Thai folks (who produce a good Thai product).  We have tried to go several times but its been closed after a recent opening.  Menu looks really interesting but the room seems, uh, less than inviting and warm from the outside.  Other reports would be appreciated, esp on the drinks.

I stopped by today and poked my head in the door - Chef Barillo was there, and we met each other. The menu *does* look wonderful, and he told me it changes all the time, so it looks like Social is a real attempt at presenting a McLean dining experience. I agree with wristband that it isn't all that inviting looking from the outside, but Jeff Barillo was as nice as he could be, and this is a restaurant I'm looking forward to trying - I had forgotten that they'd been open eight months.

SocialExterior.JPGSocialMenu.JPG

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Heading to Evo Bistro for an early dinner last night, I remembered Social was in that strip so we decided to give it a try.  Not cheap (with a similar wine but with one extra glass and for the same number of courses, about 40% more than our tab at Requin the night before), but everything was good enough to make us want to return.  I started with an assortment of oysters, all very rich and briny.  Strange accompaniments, though - a kind of sweet cocktail sauce and a tom yum sauce - they were better on their own.  My wife enjoyed her crab cake - very little filler and good quality crab.  Personally, I thought it was good but could have used a little more seasoning.  The mains were both very successful.  I really enjoyed my sauteed soft shells - big crabs prepared very well and lightly but nicely seasoned.  My wife really enjoyed her rabbit dish, which I did not taste but the extra of which I will have this afternoon for lunch.  Portions are big, neither a positive or negative for me but just an observation worth noting.

Overall a very positive experience and we will definitely return.  At least on a Saturday night, it pays to have reservations because it is small.  We got a table because we were there before 7:00 but others without reservations who came in later got seated at the counter or turned away.

 

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Does anyone know if this place has closed? I noticed it was closed last night (Thursday) at 7pm, when I went to pick up takeout from Pasa Thai. I'm just curious and don't mean to start any rumors!

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6 hours ago, Dr. Delicious said:

Does anyone know if this place has closed? I noticed it was closed last night (Thursday) at 7pm, when I went to pick up takeout from Pasa Thai. I'm just curious and don't mean to start any rumors!

It's not impossible - their phone rolled over to voice mail just now, Yelp says they're closed (note the Apr 30 comment) ...

and yet, they just made an entry on their Facebook page on Wednesday, May 10.

This could be a vacation, temporary shut-down, family emergency, etc. - there isn't quite enough evidence to call them closed, but it's getting there.

It's too bad if it's true - these folks were pretty serious about taking a crummy space, and making it into a nice place.

Darn it, I specifically asked them to post here twice a month - it would have kept their name out there. *Nobody* talks about Social Oyster Bar, and that's a real shame.

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On 1/31/2016 at 1:31 PM, wristband said:

Its owned & operated by the Pasa Thai folks (who produce a good Thai product).  We have tried to go several times but its been closed after a recent opening.  Menu looks really interesting but the room seems, uh, less than inviting and warm from the outside.  Other reports would be appreciated, esp on the drinks.

On 5/12/2017 at 10:47 AM, Dr. Delicious said:

Does anyone know if this place has closed? I noticed it was closed last night (Thursday) at 7pm, when I went to pick up takeout from Pasa Thai. I'm just curious and don't mean to start any rumors!

Does anyone know if this was really owned and operated by the folks who own Pasa Thai? Were the former Rogue 24 employees merely employees? I was under the impression that they had taken over this space, but then I noticed wristband's post this morning.

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3 hours ago, DonRocks said:

Does anyone know if this was really owned and operated by the folks who own Pasa Thai? Were the former Rogue 24 employees merely employees? I was under the impression that they had taken over this space, but then I noticed wristband's post this morning.

"Restaurant Review: Social Oyster Bar" by David Hagedorn on arlingtonmagazine.com

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29 minutes ago, dcs said:

"Restaurant Review: Social Oyster Bar" by David Hagedorn on arlingtonmagazine.com

Thanks. Note to Arlington (and Bethesda?) Magazine: You *must* put dates on your online restaurant reviews (maybe it's there, and I don't see it, but I've scrolled top-to-bottom three times).

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There definitely was a tie with Pasa Thai - same owner and PT staff (notably the PT manager Dan) were visibly helping out several months ago.  Whether that changed since the late fall I don't know.  Funny - I walked by Friday afternoon, room was dark (not unusual as they are not open for lunch) but the place was orderly & set for dinner service.  Menu was posted in the front door.

I have not eaten there but heard nice reports from several locals whom I trust.  They enjoyed SOB, esp cocktails and fresh fish, and claimed the place was filled when they were there albeit its a small room.

 

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SOB is closed for good.  No answer on the phone Saturday night.  I just called Pasa Thai which confirmed Oyster Bar is closed.

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I was passing by Mclean on Dolley Madison Boulevard and saw this restaurant while stuck in traffic. It looked interesting because I've been to Little Serow and enjoyed the flavors, so a Thai restaurant closer to me with those similar flavors would be great. Searching online, I only found a Facebook page, and it looks like they had a soft opening on June 18.  Does anyone know more about this place or has visited? Thanks for any info!

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This was Social Oyster, now converted to Essan.  As mentioned in the thread about Social Oyster, I think it is owned by the Pasa Thai folks. 

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Indeed it is owned & operated by the Pasa Thai folks.  I have not eaten here but the menu looks intriguing with its obvious emphasis on Northern Thai food - very different from "regular" DC area Thai food.  

I was pleasantly surprised to see a limited number of items on the menu.  For me, that is a positive.  Too often, Thai restaurants have five pages of items so an attempt to narrowly focus on unique flavors and different Thai dishes is welcome.

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[Man, I hate to do this because it's such an utterly different concept, but Same Owners + Same Location = Same Thread. If you think about it, this is nothing more than a reconcepting of Social Restaurant & Oyster Bar; yet, it just doesn't feel right in this instance to merge the threads (this would have been the first time in website history that I didn't (if I hadn't - remember also that I could always carve it back up if I need to)) - I did it for Napoleon in Adams Morgan when it became Lapis, and I just don't see much difference here: Asian owners going from a European concept, back to the roots of their native country - as much as I *loved* the idea of Social Restaurant & Oyster Bar, Thai cuisine is in their blood, and this has more of a chance of success - I haven't been to Esaan yet, but it would be pretty great if this was true, regional Esaan cuisine.]

Does anyone know if Gift Thongpukdee and Jeff Barillo are still Chefs here? Remember, these two were at Rogue 24 which is extremely intriguing, and Thongpukdee certainly sounds like its of Thai ethnicity.

The full name of the restaurant is apparently Esaan Tumbar (and the website isn't yet operational).

I just hope that this isn't named in Spanish!

Screenshot 2017-06-27 at 4.39.09 PM.png <--- You have to admit that's pretty damned funny.

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I remember trying northern Thai/Lao cuisine for the first.  The flavors are so vibrant, unconventional and yet harmonious.  Well, familiarity with the cuisine has dampened my enthusiasm.  I no longer go to BGIII regularly, and I don't even think about making the schlep to Thip Khao any more.  And I've only been to Doi Moi once.  

However, since Essan is only a few minutes away in my earth killing SUV, I made the trek for lunch yesterday.  As one can see, the wings are small, and a bit dry - all presumably intentional because they're quite good.  The mince pork and chicken intestine laab is also pretty good.  I personally don't think there's any chicken intestine in the dish, instead I think they're kidneys and gizzards because they're quite crunchy.  The fried snapper, while pretty to look at, also had a nice texture, i.e., very crispy exterior with a slightly dry interior.  However, the fish really didn't have much flavor.  Lastly, the spicy grilled beef was nice and tender.

All in all, a very good addition to McLean. 

ETA: The portions are bigger than pictured.  I think a couple of wings were already down the hatch when I took the pic.  Same for the beef and fish.

Wings and Laab - Copy.JPG

Fried Fish.JPG

Spicy Grilled Beef.JPG

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Went yesterday ... wings are tiny, as said above, but crispy and flavorful. The pork and chicken intestine laab is no longer on the menu - they have pork and then they have a vegetarian (mushroom) option. Was damn good laab, not very spicy, but fresh and light. The som tum muor (Essan style papaya salad) was very good, funky, fermented, and the spiciest thing we had. The best thing we had was the fried mackeral on top of noodles. It's eaten like a lettuce wrap. Delicious, but the piece of mackeral was too small. 

It's really good - comparable to early years at BG - the presentation is beautiful, food is fresh/tasty, and there are a lot of interesting things on the menu I'd like to try. It's a small menu, though, not the yooge menus that you usually see at Thai restaurants. It's really a nice space (I don't know what the oyster place that was there before looked like) - felt more like DC than McLean. It's pricier than BG/Thip Khao/Baan, but at dinner time on a weeknight it's faster to get there than anywhere else for me. The 4 courses we had came out to $50, which doesn't sound like much, but we cleared our plates with zero leftovers - and I certainly could have shared 2 more courses - so, order 6 courses for 2 people. They give a small amount of sticky rice (less than BG or Thip Khao) and I think additional costs money. It's the purple version and it's hot A F, so be careful getting it out with your hands. Oh, they have a full bar and a cocktail menu that looked pretty good, but we didn't have anything. 

Friendly owners, from Bangkok and not Isan Province, but capitalizing on the Northern/Northeastern Thai fad. If you want it spicy, ask for it spicy - otherwise I think they bring it down a notch. Oh, and I like the website design. Good job on that. 

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