Jump to content

Thai by Thai, Cedar Lake Plaza in Sterling and Downtown Fairfax


Recommended Posts

Thai by Thai is one of Sterling's Thai restaurants, and the only one I know of with a "secret" Thai menu. It has become our Thai restaurant of choice. I couldn't find a thread devoted to it, and it is deserving of one.

It's a brightly lit place where you order at the counter and they bring food to your table and has a much nicer vibe than most counter-ordering locations.

The menu posted over the service counter doesn't hint at the existence of the special Thai menu, but does have a few street food items, such as the sun-dried beef. They have monthly specials posted on the cash register, which are items they are auditioning as possible additions to the Thai menu.

The Thai menu is available upon request and includes English translations. Its content changes with some frequency but includes wonderful fare such as deep fried pork belly strips with Chinese Broccoli, fried pork rib chunks with sticky rice and an incendiary dipping sauce, and a pig organ soup. Be sure to have one of their noodle dishes other than the Pad Thai. Noodles come out with a wonderful smokey touch. The Pad Thai is unexceptional, probably tailored for the tastes of the majority of their lunchtime customers. When we look around at our fellow diners, most have ordered a fried rice dish or the Pad Thai. Our experience has generally been that the person running the deep fryer knows their business--the pork strips in that pork with broccoli are perfectly crisped and maintain that texture for as long as it takes to inhale the dish.

Noodle dishes are generously portioned; the other dishes are often less so.

Thai by Thai's Sterling location is on Rt. 7 just West of Dranesville Road, across the street from the Shoppers Food Whorehouse and the Burlington Coat Factory, in the same plaza as Grand Mart.

They also had a sign announcing the December 19 opening of a second location, this time at 29 and 50, near a mobile phone shop. We're just hoping that the chefs who do such exceptional woking and frying are not headed off for that location.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

weekly lunch stop. the exploding egg special is one of the best things I've ever eaten.

We tried that today on your recommendation. I wasn't blown away by it, and preferred the current noodle dish on the "specials" menu (lower right side). But it was pretty good and I've certainly never had anything like that before, anywhere.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

We tried that today on your recommendation. I wasn't blown away by it, and preferred the current noodle dish on the "specials" menu (lower right side). But it was pretty good and I've certainly never had anything like that before, anywhere.

If you get the egg where it still has a soft yolk it makes all the difference. I get it maybe 1/2 of the time, but when I do, it's great.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yum Woo Sen and Thai iced coffee for lunch today. The Yum Woo Sen was exploding with perfectly balanced fish sauce and lime, with a nice tingle of hot pepper. Total cost, $10, including tip to the counter staff. The smokey aroma of their expertly wokked noodles made me pause in the parking lot, tempted to go back in for a second course. Why is this place not bursting at the seams?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Did they ever open a Fairfax location?

Yes. We absolutely love this place (...Sterling is closest to us). A concept that is amazingly good. We probably have visited it once every two weeks for the last two or three years. I must note it is about ten miles away. And worth every foot of the drive. Note that there are two menus: the standard and also an off the menu version. I've never taken notes-I just return and eat everything they put in front of me.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The Sterling location has 3 monthly specials listed for September. I had the Pla Goong, a shrimp and lemongrass salad, today. It is full of torn lettuce (possibly Romaine), red onion, scallions, lemongrass, and shrimp, all in a nicely balanced citrus and lemongrass sauce with just a bit of heat. I'm hoping this dish makes it onto the regular or secret Thai menu.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

At the risk of being redundant...

"We absolutely love this place (...Sterling is closest to us). A concept that is amazingly good. We probably have visited it once every two weeks for the last two or three years. I must note it is about ten miles away. And worth every foot of the drive. Note that there are two menus: the standard and also an off the menu version. I've never taken notes-I just return and eat everything they put in front of me."

It is well worth those on this board who live within 15-20 minutes or less visiting.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I stopped by the other night between the girls dance classes. The menu was concise and read like a "greatest hits" Thai menu and if there were specials, none were displayed or offered at the counter service.

What I was served was tasty and very fresh (spring rolls, woon sen soup, pork pad cha), but indistinguishable in flavor from most Americanized Thai restaurants I have been too. Is there a secret to this place?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I stopped by the other night between the girls dance classes. The menu was concise and read like a "greatest hits" Thai menu and if there were specials, none were displayed or offered at the counter service.

What I was served was tasty and very fresh (spring rolls, woon sen soup, pork pad cha), but indistinguishable in flavor from most Americanized Thai restaurants I have been too. Is there a secret to this place?

You have to ask for the "Thai menu" which they keep underneath the register for any of the stuff that is not run of the mill. They will not offer it, and there is no other way to know they have one. I don't recall specials but I've only been here a handful of times at best.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I stopped by the other night between the girls dance classes. The menu was concise and read like a "greatest hits" Thai menu and if there were specials, none were displayed or offered at the counter service.

What I was served was tasty and very fresh (spring rolls, woon sen soup, pork pad cha), but indistinguishable in flavor from most Americanized Thai restaurants I have been too. Is there a secret to this place?

Which location did you visit? A few of the dishes formerly only on the secret Thai menu have made it onto the overhead menu at the Sterling location, such as the jungle fried catfish, sun-dried beef, and fried pork ribs. For noodles, go for the deliciously smoky pad see eww dishes. I'd also suggest one dish with fried pork; the Chinese broccoli with fried pork belly slivers is excellent.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My sister and I decided to check this fairly new to the 'hood restaurant tonight, Thai by Thai. It's in the Bradlick shopping center in Annandale, and there are two other locations, Fairfax and Sterling.  A small place where you order at the counter and they bring it out to you.  We got the garden rolls, tom yum soup, green papaya salad and crispy basil duck.   We started giggling when they brought out the garden rolls.  Honestly, they looked like a couple of green penises in condoms.  Then the jokes about the dipping sauce started, naturally.  They were pretty tasty -- rice paper wrappers around a full dark green lettuce leaf, then filled with julienned veggies and ground chicken.  The dipping sauce had very mild chilies and was duck-sauce-sweet.  The green papaya salad was generous on the papaya (no shredded cabbage to fill it out as I've seen some places) but skimpy on the peanuts and green beans and almost no heat from the chilies in the dressing, but there was chili oil, chopped green chilies and pepper flakes on the table if you wanted to spice things up.  The tom yum soup had far too much fish sauce in it, which drowned out the other flavors.  The crispy basil duck was also quite mild but also nice and crisp and very tasty otherwise.  Overall, I'd say Americanized thai that had some bright spots but certainly not worth a detour.

Since thai food is not common on this stretch of Braddock Road, and this is on the way home, I can see picking up a few things here from time to time once I learn what else to pick or avoid on the menu.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thai by Thai in Sterling is excellent for what amounts to relatively quick, well prepared and delicious Thai food.  There is also a more imaginative off the menu menu which you may find more exciting.  But they do a number of dishes well in Sterling.   There are a half dozen restaurants in Reston and Herndon that we now drive by to go to Thai by Thai.

No, this is not Vegas' Lotus of Siam.  But at its price point, speed for the order and flavor it is very good and appreciated.  On some dishes such as their panang curry they do a legitimately excellent job.  Other dishes such as "Jungle" chicken or Jungle shrimp are very good, too.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I thought there was already a thread on Thai by Thai, but I cannot find it. I specifically recall someone posting about the authentic Thai menu, which is the only menu I've ordered from at the Fairfax location. They have a duck noodle soup that is fantastic. Assuming Annandale operates in the same manner, you must ignore the Americanized menu postings and ask the person who takes your order to show you the Thai menu that they keep behind the counter. Much happiness will ensue  :D

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I stopped by the new location in the Bradlick shopping center in Annandale (the corner of Braddock and Backlick roads).  I didn't try anything special; I had a spring roll, a satay, and the Drunken Noodles with pork.  The spring roll and satay were OK, but nothing special.  The Drunken Noodles I thought was very good.  It was "medium hot" as the menu said it would be.  I will definitely go again and give some of the other menu items a try.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The Sterling location has an updated "secret" Thai menu.  Today I went for the spicy fried pork with rice and chili.  This is slivers of pork belly (similar to the fried pork belly in the chinese broccoli and fried pork dish) fried until crispy with green beans, sliced sweet red peppers, and sliced hot green peppers in a fairly dry lemongrass chili paste over rice.  I didn't mean to eat the whole thing.  But I did. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Also on the new secret menu is a variation of Hainanese chicken rice (on the Thai menu as chicken and rice with broth or you can ask for Khao Man Gai) which is poached chicken in rice that's been cooked with rendered chicken fat. I say variation because when I had it in Thailand the chicken was very tender but the Thai by Thai version was made maybe with an older bird, because it swapped tenderness for a really flavorful bite. I can see why it's on the secret menu, as fat-soaked rice with yard bird isn't an easy sell, but man that was tasty.

Here's a page talking about the regional variations.

The new secret menu has some things I definitely want to try. Luckily they kept the Moo Ping (grilled pork sticks) and sticky rice, because my three year old eats those just like she used to eat the Bangkok street food version. Just, you know, without the dipping sauce.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Also on the new secret menu is a variation of Hainanese chicken rice (on the Thai menu as chicken and rice with broth or you can ask for Khao Man Gai) which is poached chicken in rice that's been cooked with rendered chicken fat. ..

This is also a mainstay in Hokkien Chinese cuisine as with Malaysian Chinese communities like you'd find in places like Penang and Ipoh in Malaysia. Great stuff available everywhere in wet markets and homes.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I made my third or forth stop at the Bradlick location.  As usual, the food was very good.  Unfortunately, as usual, the place was a bit of a mess.  The first table we sat out had drops of liquid and tiny pieces of food which had not been cleaned off.  Our second stop was OK, but the table across from us had not been cleaned.  Used plates, paper napkins,drink glasses, etc. were sitting and stayed there the entire time we were eating.    I don't understand why a restaurant with such a nice decor, and food, pays so little attention to cleaning up after guests leave.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The "secret menu" isn't such a secret anymore. It's posted on their website, there are signs in the restaurant (Bradlick) promoting it, and there are laminated copies on the counter. The laminated copy doesn't have the symbols for spice level or GF or V, so if those are important, best refer to the web site. I had the shrimp omlette with rice from that menu, which was fine, and I did use traces of the Sriracha that was provided on the side. I also had my usual fried pork ribs (app on the regular menu). I don't know why, but I love those!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Good question, The Hersch.  I'm not the person who originally termed it as such, but I would assume it referred to the fact that it is sometimes served with soft yolk intact.  Rice knocks me out cold if eaten for lunch, so I only had it the one time. I need to be pretty careful about my intake or even a Thai iced coffee won't keep me conscious.  

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I ordered online this afternoon and discovered two things: 1)You can get pad thai made with fried pork belly as the meat (not mentioned in-shop anywhere but a choice when ordering online) and 2) I asked for the pad thai to be "not too sweet" in my order and it was definitely less sweet.  TbT's pad thai isn't too extreme in its normal sweetness, but I sure like it better when it isn't sweet.  

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have not had a more enjoyable meal since the old "secret" Lao menu at Bangkok Golden when Seng Luangrath was at the helm. Two dishes, both sublime.

Running errands through Fairfax and had a craving for something other than Bun Cha  from Viet House or the Bibimbap Hot Pot at Super H. Remembered that Thai by Thai started advertising their "secret" menu a few years ago  so popped in. Parking and access to the little shopping center continues to be a shit show. I walked ina little after 1 and only one 3-top was in the small, sterile dining room.

From the Street Food menu: Kao Tod Nam Sod - fried rice balls, crumbled atop romaine lettuce, tossed with pickled pork, red onion, peanuts, chilis, fish sauce, lemongrass, etc, etc. HOLY SHIT. Soooo good, each bite encompassing all the spicy/sweet/salty and sour flavor with the sour coming from the pickled pork. I have had maybe 10 versions of Nam Sod and this was better than all.

From The Regional Special Menu : Khao Sol - the most enjoyable Thai dish I have ever had. Egg noodles, chili, sour cabbage, fried wonton flakes, pork, red onions, red curry. The blend of textures and depth of flavors were really, really impressive. A tour de force.

These two dishes ($22 total) were enormous and this was the BEST Thai meal I have had since maybe the second year of Little Serow. Can't vouch for other locations....but the TWO people who were working on Tuesday lunch were just KILLING IT.

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

This just might be the most important post on this site in years.  Can't wait to try it.  (UPDATE:  Just glanced at the Yelp reviews -- no, I don't trust them in general, but boy there are a bunch of awful ones in recent months.  I'm sure Brian is right that his meal was fantastic, so there's no doubt it has great potential--I hope several of us can check it out to assess whether there's a consistency issue and/or better days than others to stop by.)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

12 hours ago, Marty L. said:

This just might be the most important post on this site in years. 

I'm not that smart!

If I am being honest, the reason I have not been to Thai by Thai in years is because my last few meals sucked....like just shitty strip mall Thai. I was only planning on getting a lunch Pad Thai because I didn't want to spend more than $10 and had a craving. Since I have become a stay-at-home Dad, my days of Omakase at Sushi Taro and leisurely lunches at Fiola Mare are OVER!

I read through the entire menu because no one was at the counter to order, and just decided to take a flyer on these two dishes and spend a little more than anticipated. I am still thinking about them. I am by no means a Thai food expert, but I do prefer Thai, Vietnamese, Malay and other SE Asian cuisines. Three days later I am still thinking about these two dishes and hope to go back in the next few weeks and order them again, although the Khao Sol (!!!) was on a piece of paper at the register, like a daily special, so who knows.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thai by Thai in Annandale is closing on March 27, according to a sign on their door.  It says the Fairfax &  Sterling locations will remain open and any rewards points from Annandale can be used at the other locations.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...