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Thai Basil, A Thai Gem in Chantilly - Chef Nongkran Daks on Route 50 and Airline Parkway


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This place is a favorite in the lunch rotation, but for some reason I had not been in a long time. Lunch was a nice dish of Pad Kra Praw, but the interesting was all these pictures around the restaurant of Bobby Flay. Seems like he came for a Throwdown. Click for pics. That makes at least 3 places in the VA/DC area that have been featured to my knowledge.

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This place is a favorite in the lunch rotation, but for some reason I had not been in a long time. Lunch was a nice dish of Pad Kra Praw, but the interesting was all these pictures around the restaurant of Bobby Flay. Seems like he came for a Throwdown. Click for pics. That makes at least 3 places in the VA/DC area that have been featured to my knowledge.

Flay was there for a throwdown. A Pad Thai throwdown. I meant to go but I couldn't get away. I have taken cooking classes here and can attest that the ingredients used in all the recipes are fresh and authentic.

This is my second favorite Thai place behind Thai Square. Head and shoulders above the other Thai places in Chantilly.

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I have taken cooking classes here and can attest that the ingredients used in all the recipes are fresh and authentic.

I took a cooking class from her, too. She's a tough lady! Her pad thai recipe is the one I make at home, but what she had typed for us and what she cooked were fairly different, so I have a ton of scribbled notes. I actually prefer her pad thai to Nava Thai's, though I prefer Nava Thai overall--and it's much closer to me.

Pax,

Brian

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Flay was there for a throwdown. A Pad Thai throwdown.
I took a cooking class from her, too. She's a tough lady!
FWIW, Chef Nongkran Daks' recipes for kway teow pad Thai and its accompanying sauce are featured in the current issue (Winter 2009) of Gastronomica, part of the article Finding Pad Thai by Alexandra Greeley.

Chef is playing up her victory over Flay to the max, with a banner outside the restaurant, pictures inside, and signs everywhere.

Tough? Last night she came out and said that during the competition, she knew she won as soon as Flay began adding soy sauce to his version: "Uh, Bobby, this is Pad Thai, not Pad Chinese," she chortled.

Nongkran's Pad Thai ($12.95, with shrimp), is a perfect example of a dish being sweet (she uses palm sugar) without being condescending. But if I were to repeat just one dish from last night, I'd order the Gang Matsaman Nua ($12.95). I believe Matsaman is the same basic dish as Muselman on other menus, and Nongkran's non-traditional version of this southern, Muslim-influenced recipe uses 17 herbs, peanuts, and spices in the sauce along with cubes of beef. It's not the sauce, but the 'cubes of beef' that prompts the menu to tout this as "the most popular curry among Westerners" - Nongkran told me that when she makes it for herself, she prefers to use lamb or duck - maybe if you call ahead?

The menu proudly claims that no MSG is used in the cuisine, which is just one reason why the flavors here are so pure. I like Thai Basil!

Cheers,

Rocks.

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FWIW, Chef Nongkran Daks' recipes for kway teow pad Thai and its accompanying sauce are featured in the current issue (Winter 2009) of Gastronomica, part of the article Finding Pad Thai by Alexandra Greeley.

The article is downloadable from the UC Press at this link.

The Food Network site also has her recipe (link: "Recipe courtesy Nongkran Daks") but it calls for 1/4 lb rice noodles instead of the 1/2 lb listed in the above version. The only other significant difference between the recipes is that the FN version calls for 5 tablespoons of Pad Thai sauce, while the Gastronomica one calls for 1/2 cup, which is 8 tablespoons. Typos, or did FN modify her recipe to increase the protein/noodle ration to appeal to stereotypical American preferences? But then, it's not her recipe, is it?

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Tough? Last night she came out and said that during the competition, she knew she won as soon as Flay began adding soy sauce to his version: "Uh, Bobby, this is Pad Thai, not Pad Chinese," she chortled.

That's funny -- I knew she'd win as soon as I heard the throwdown announced, then knew even more (is that possible? a question for the philosophers) when Flay added soy sauce in the test kitchen "for color." As if you can't taste soy sauce.

As proof, one of the judges busted him for the soy sauce after one bite.

Pretty lame effort by Bobby, given that he got a good recipe from the guy in NY and there was no soy sauce within a mile of it. And why does he have to "spice up" everything? Pad thai is not a spicy dish, even though every Thai restaurant offers to make it spicy for people who insist on having every dish be spicy.

I actually spend more time at Merchants Tire than at Thai Basil in that funky little plaza -- we need to get back to TB soon.

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I had the Pad Thai today for lunch. It was very good, among the best I've ever had. I'm going to have to try this menu a few times, but it's now on my short list of Thai restaurants.

The lunch crowd was impressive and the place was full. Whether or not that had anything to do with the slow service, I don't know, but don't plan on a quick in-and-out here.

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I had the Pad Thai today for lunch. It was very good, among the best I've ever had. I'm going to have to try this menu a few times, but it's now on my short list of Thai restaurants.

The lunch crowd was impressive and the place was full. Whether or not that had anything to do with the slow service, I don't know, but don't plan on a quick in-and-out here.

It is one of my regular lunch spots and the place always has a good lunch crowd. You need to get there before the lunch crowd (1145 or earlier) or else it can be on the slower side.

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I ate here in 2005 after Tom Sietsema reviewed it (2 stars).

I had the pad thai and a rice dish that I forget, but I was not impressed. It just tasted like average thai food to me.

I also noticed something that Tom mentioned in his review. The staff used really strong smelling windex to clean the tables while you're eating, and it was pretty offensive. Did anyone else notice that? Maybe they stopped it.

I'm interested to try Thai Square to see if it's any better than Thai Basil.

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I ate here in 2005 after Tom Sietsema reviewed it (2 stars).

I had the pad thai and a rice dish that I forget, but I was not impressed. It just tasted like average thai food to me.

I also noticed something that Tom mentioned in his review. The staff used really strong smelling windex to clean the tables while you're eating, and it was pretty offensive. Did anyone else notice that? Maybe they stopped it.

I'm interested to try Thai Square to see if it's any better than Thai Basil.

2005 was a long time ago, you should give it another shot. What Thai places do you think are decent?

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I ate here in 2005 after Tom Sietsema reviewed it (2 stars).

I had the pad thai and a rice dish that I forget, but I was not impressed. It just tasted like average thai food to me.

I also noticed something that Tom mentioned in his review. The staff used really strong smelling windex to clean the tables while you're eating, and it was pretty offensive. Did anyone else notice that? Maybe they stopped it.

I'm interested to try Thai Square to see if it's any better than Thai Basil.

Is Thai Square the place over by Costco? I tried it once a couple years ago -- just average. Now, average Thai food is still pretty good, but it didn't blow me away.

We also tried Grand Thai in Market Square, South Riding. Again, decent Thai food (although Twinsmommy was not impressed with the mee krob and I had to concur -- too sweet), but the sushi was very good and I am always leery of these Thai/Japanese operations.

Very attractive dining room, too.

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2005 was a long time ago, you should give it another shot. What Thai places do you think are decent?

Truthfully, Thai is my least favorite asian cuisine, but the best thai I've had is probably Thaiphoon in Pentagon City, loved their green beans. The best decor of a thai restaurant is hands down Rice in Logan Circle, even though the food (contemporary Thai) is only average. The restaurant is very dark inside with exposed brick walls and high ceilings, I loved the look, very New York City. Much better for appetizers and drinks compared to a full meal.

I also really enjoy the Thai food they have at Spices in Cleveland Park. Although not 'authentic', and not exclusively Thai, I've never had a bad meal here.

Is Thai Square the place over by Costco? I tried it once a couple years ago -- just average. Now, average Thai food is still pretty good, but it didn't blow me away.

Thai Square is in Arlington (Columbia Pike... booooo for no metro access). Are you talking about the Costco in Fairfax? That Thai restaurant is Sakoontra. Some people swear by that place, but it seemed like just another strip mall Thai to me.

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I have a fondness for Thai food but I find myself frequenting Japanese, Chinese and Vietnamese places more often. And I abhor the trendy fusion places, with the exception of The Source. With apologies to Grover, I need to expand my appreciation for Korean food, since I live close enough to Annandale to have no excuses.

That said, my current northern Virginia Thai rotation is Thai Square and Bangkok Siam in Arlington -- the latter being next to Ravi Kabob House, so the over-indulgence can be gastronomically incredible -- Tommy Thai and House of Siam in Springfield -- those are my local haunts -- and the aforementioned Thai Basil and Sakoontra. Sakoontra can be very good, and compared to most strip mall Thai places, it's a cut above. Right now, I would have to rank Thai Basil at the top of this rotation, but I have a lot more of that menu to explore.

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Was in Chantilly at lunch running errands, so decided to give Thai Basil a shot.

Fantastic lunch. Started with the Tom Yum soup with mushrooms, absolutely delightful. Flavorful, and yet packed the promised punch on heat. TONS of mushrooms.

Had to go with the Pad Thai (with pork) to test. the kitchen. Definitely the best I can remember in recent years. Vibrant flavors, noodles perfectly cooked, no gumminess or gloopy sauce. Nongkran was working the room, saying hi to each table but it was clear there were a lot of regulars.

It's not exactly in my hood, but will definitely have to come back when I have time for a long lunch.

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It's not exactly in my hood, but will definitely have to come back when I have time for a long lunch.

It's a handy waypoint during those ritual springtime runs to DeBaggio for garden herbs and plants.

Also, she's taken to occasionally bringing her show to your hood, in the form of a county fair-type stand. At November's Sugarloaf Crafts Festival at the MoCo Fairgrounds, porcupine and I were gobsmacked to turn a corner (having just wolfed down pit beef sandwiches) only to discover Thai Basil in all their glory, dishing out fresh hot pad thai. D'oh! If only we had checked first; in past years they never assigned anything good to that area, unless you were after cinnamon almonds or a funnel cake.

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Wish I could say my dining experience matched the write-ups...After reading the reviews last night I ventured out in the freezing weather to Thai Basil and was deeply disappointed. The filling in the Golden Cups appetizer was cold, the Tom Yam Gai soup was neither spicy nor tasty, and the Pad Thai with chicken, beef, and pork was exceptionally awful. Did I miss something? I'm really reticent to be critical and in 30 years of eating out I've only sent 1 dish back, but Thai Basil was a bust.

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Flay was there for a throwdown. A Pad Thai throwdown. I meant to go but I couldn't get away. I have taken cooking classes here and can attest that the ingredients used in all the recipes are fresh and authentic.

This is my second favorite Thai place behind Thai Square. Head and shoulders above the other Thai places in Chantilly.

As you can see above, I used to be a huge fan of this place. I've been there three times since the Bobby Flay appearance and have noticed a serious decline in quality. Twice the food has only been average, once it has been downright bad. All three times the service has been poor as well.

Hopefully things improve but I no longer recommend this place.

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Got carryout from Thai Basil this week because I had a craving and I wanted to give the place another chance.

Another "meh" experience. The place must have changed regular cooks or Nongkran has taken a step back from the kitchen which has caused it to lose its way. Pad Thai was decidedly mediocre and the Thai Samosas were only ok. I need to take a break from here.

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Went here with friends the other day who were staying in Dulles North and wanted to go to Air and Space Museum there. We started out with fresh unfried spring rolls that were good. I then had the pad thai with soft shell crab. While the crab was great, the pad thai was decidedly sweet and not my favorite. Hubby had a noodle dish with beef and tomato and basil that was really good. I kept stealing bites, which he did not appreciate, glad he was eating with chopsticks and not a fork ;)

If I went back I don't think I wouldn't get pad thai, even though that is supposed to be the specialty.

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My wife and I just had an outstanding meal here. We began with a special appetizer of several crunchy leaves, on each of which sat shrimp, lime, ginger and peanuts (among other things) -- great textures from the leaves and nuts and a wonderful mix of vibrant flavors from the lime and ginger. Garden rolls were also good, presented with a peanut sauce, but the special appetizer was the star of the meal. As main course we had a special seafood pad thai -- very good, along with an order of Khanom Bueng Yuan, a rice flour crepe filled with pork, shrimp, mushroom, onion and bean sprouts, served with garlic-lime-chili sauce -- also very good. No drinks served but a small selection wines. A restaurant worth seeking out.

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My wife stopped in here last night after having drinks with a friend. She called me, mid-meal (she never does this) and said "I'm having dinner at Thai Basil, and it's awesome." She brought me home some leftovers, which I had moments ago, and this was among the best Thai food I've ever had. I'm going to have to spend some serious time in that place over the next few months.

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We've lunched there two or three times in the past couple of years, when we've found ourselves out that way. The Pad Thai is my very favorite of all I have tried in Northern Virginia. I like the flavors and the fact that it is not sweet. Pad See Ew was OK but not as great as it is at Elephant Jumps. And my husband reported that the Panang Curry is not his favorite (he likes it best at Bangkok 54). That being said, Thai Basil certainly serves a lot of people and folks are willing to wait in line for lunch there. It's a huge standout in a field of meh restaurants, fast food joints, and a couple of other gems in that area.

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