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Soi 38 - Nat Ongsangkoon and Dia Khanthongthip's Thai Street Food at 21st and L Street Downtown


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Went last night... Was very excited after reading the website and the news about it, and I've spent time in Thailand eating the street food.

It's a pretty space, but in a very quiet area in the West End. The address is not coherent - it's actually on 21st St, not L, between L and M, pretty much attached to the Citibank building (they share the same address, that's why the entrance is not on L). It was pretty quiet inside, not that many customers, but there was a bustling staff. I saw my favorite waitress from Bangkok Golden there, which made me very happy, because maybe this means they have chef overlap or something. She said she was just working the one shift tonight. I gave her a big hug.

We had just come from hot yoga, so I was happy with how quickly they replenished our waters. Like I said, lots of staff, not a lot a customers, so we were doted on. It was just 3 of us, so we didn't get to order as much as I'd wanted to be, but we had a pretty good sampling of item.

Grilled Pork Necks - okay, so this is one of my favorite dishes at the Laotian joint, you get a whole big plate of them with a great sauce. This was the same dish, but 1/2 of the volume of meat for about the same price. It tasted as good as it did at BG. The sauce seemed a touch less spicy, but maybe not, I'm not sure.

Spicy lemongrass soup, bone-in pork rib - comes in style, in a hot pot with the fire and everything. We got the larger size, as the waitress said the small one was "tiny". This was fragrant, a bit of a kick, had mushroom and a good flavor. The pork rib was a toughish but tasty. One of the better dishes of the night.

Yum/Baked fish maw/fried squid - this did not do it for me. It was fried squid with a boring crust and some small pieces of fish and some cashews. It was boring. I wish I had ordered the Larb or the pork liver.

Honey Roasted Duck - My childhood friend really wanted duck, so we got duck. I thought it was pretty good. I'm not into sweeter foods. He didn't care much for it. I liked the skin of it and thought the meat was pretty good. I think those that like sweeter entrees may enjoy this. It was presented really well.

Spicy Seafood/Pad Cha Talay - this was also one of the better dishes, it tasted a lot like jungle curry to me. This was the spiciest of the lot, but not overpoweringly so, certainly not to deserve the 3 peppers on the menu. Their was a good amount of seafood - scallops, squid, fish, shrimp.

Sriracha Fried Rice - mmm ... My favorite dish they had. Just the right amount of kick. Greasy chicken (and I mean that in the best way - it was thigh meat and dark).

Thai Ice Cream/Thai Tea flavor - it was good. I don't know, I'm not an ice cream connoisseur.

Bua Loy - sticky rice dumplings in coconut milk. Interesting. I don't really like Asian desserts all that much. I think my co-eaters enjoyed.

This place seems to have so much potential. I love going to a Thai place and not recognizing anything on the menu (it's usually various colored curries, drunken noodles, pad thai, some soups, and variations). What we had was pretty good, but not amazing. I would go again to try a bunch of other things on the menu. It's vast and creative and unique. I hope they are not going to dumb it down or make it too sweet or not spicy. If they are related to Bangkok Golden, then hopefully things will mesh and this place will be rock solid option for Thai in the city.

Oh, and on a side note, not related to food, but on the kindness of strangers. I stupidly parked in the garage at 2000 L and didn't look at the sign properly. It closes at 8pm (that tells you how quiet this neighborhood is). So, I leave the restaurant and the garage is all locked up. I find a number to call, and even the "emergency" line goes to voicemail (they still haven't called me back). Any way, I hear a noise - the garage door opens and this middle-aged woman in a BMW is pulling out. I run to her car, and tell her the situation - she lives there and so has a card to get in and out. She says to get my car and she will wait, and then I can try to follow her closely through the gate. It takes a bit to find the car, and I was worried she'd leave. We get out and are right behind her car, and we were able to leave. 1) People are kind 2) Even though your doctor does a great job, after work, he/she is probably brain dead, hence getting locked into a garage at night.

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I've eaten there twice now, and I like it a lot.  I think it's tough to thrive at that location as a higher-end lunch and dinner place, but I'd love to be proven wrong.

Both times I ate at the bar, and both times the staff was extremely friendly.  Those of you who enjoy cocktails before, during, or after your meal should be excited about a very strong beverage program.  The Thai Manhattan (rittenhouse rye, pu'erh tea infused sweet vermouth, chili aromatic bitters, $13) in particular is actually an excellent value, as it comes pre-bottled in a gorgeous little glass container and gives you the equivalent of around 6 ounces of deliciousness.  The house draft Singapore Sling (beefeater gin, luxardo cherry, benedictine, clarified lime, chili aromatic bitters, sloe gin, pineapple juice, $10) is also excellent.

 
Of the five dishes I've been able to sample, the Tubb Wann (pork liver, red onions, toasted rice, chili, fresh mint, $9) has been the standout.  Good portion, nicely spicy, with a pleasing kick of acid and the earthiness of the liver and the roasted rice powder.  I agree with Simul that the Kor Moo Yang (grilled pork neck , fresh lime, chili sauce, $9) has a ton of flavor but is fairly small for the price; I still enjoyed it a lot, though.  The Kanom Jeen (steamed noodles, spicy chicken green curry, bamboo shoots, chili, $14) has good flavor but is fairly standard; people who don't like Thai eggplant should be advised that it is an unlisted ingredient.  The Ped Oop Numpuang (honey-roasted duck, fresh ginger sauce, chinese broccoli, $18) is definitely on the sweet side, but it's got a great fresh ginger kick and the duck is prepared nicely; I thought the rice was also very flavorful and well-cooked.
 
Today for lunch I had the Som Tum Gai Yang (herb-grilled chicken, spicy green papaya salad, sticky rice, $16), which is very good but a little tricky to handle.  The chicken comes as two giant wings on wooden skewers, and the sticky rice was extremely hot to the touch in its plastic baggie.  All the components individually are tasty, but to get a composed bite means maneuvering the meat off the wingbones and levering steaming hot sticky rice out of the bag, which was a bit awkward since it's tough to use your fingers.  The flavors work very well together (along with the papaya salad) when you manage to do it, though.
 
On the whole, I've been very happy with both my meals there, especially for a place that's only been open a couple of weeks, and I look forward to going back and exploring more of the menu (including the spicy lemongrass and pork rib soup that Simul mentions, which one of the bartenders said was her favorite thing on the menu).
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Just a quick report from what I can easily call the best Thai restaurant (that takes reservations) in the District right now.  We went with a couple of friends from Rome who were jonesing for Thai food (I guess it's hard to come by there).  There were a number of interesting sounding dishes on the menu I didn't get to try since they wanted to stick more with the standard Thai dishes they missed so much.  That said, everything we had was good to great.

Grilled pork necks compare well with BG.  I actually prefer the dish I had at Soi over my last order at BG as Soi's had a deeper carmelization.

I was excited to try the Larb Tod (minced fried chicken)...not bad, but it seemed quite dry.  I don't know if it was just our batch, or if that is how it is meant to be.

I tried to order the spicy lemongrass soup described above, but was delivered the standard Tom Yum Goong.  No complaints with the soup which was pungent and sour.  It was, however served in a hot pot with a ladle that was too wide to fit into the trough of the pot.  I wonder if the broth differs between the 2 soups...if so, I'll have to give the other version a shot.

The Massamun curry with chicken was wonderful and rich.  The sauce was thicker and had more depth of flavor than I've found anywhere else I've ordered it in the DC area.  I'd like to try it at Thai Taste or Nava to compare.

Kana Moo Krob is fried matchbook sized pieces of pork belly with chinese broccoli in oyster sauce.  Fantastic dish.  Still dreaming about it.  The belly pieces had nice crispy skin with a toothsome fatty layer.  Not melt in your mouth, but the texture worked well for the dish.

Pad See Eew with pork was an excellent version with more of that carmelized pork goodness.

Pad Thai was just so so, which was kind of surprising.  My benchmark for Pad Thai is the "special" version we were served at BG with shrimp paste a while back.  This was far below that level.

They tout the cocktail menu, but seeing as we were toddler wrangling at the time, we stuck with pints of Singha on tap.

All in all a good showing.  We'll be back when we don't feel up to making the trek to Falls Church or Wheaton, which is likely to be pretty often.

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Just a quick report from what I can easily call the best Thai restaurant (that takes reservations) in the District right now.

The Massamun curry with chicken was wonderful and rich. The sauce was thicker and had more depth of flavor than I've found anywhere else I've ordered it in the DC area. I'd like to try it at Thai Taste or Nava to compare.

Pad Thai was just so so, which was kind of surprising. My benchmark for Pad Thai is the "special" version we were served at BG with shrimp paste a while back. This was far below that level.

I have to agree with all this--we've been here twice now and have been impressed with the complex flavors and creative cooking. As Josh notes, the pad Thai is meh, but the pineapple fried rice is simple and satisfying for the less adventurous. Likewise, the Gai Tod (fried chicken with lemongrass) can easily hold its own with all-American versions--two large, perfectly cooked pieces cut in two, with a pair of flavorful house-made sauces in bottles on the side. And the Gaeng Hang Lay (curried pork belly with ginger and sticky rice) is outstanding--the sauce is almost like a spicy pork gravy. As noted above, cocktails are well-made and good-sized.

The service is friendly, with the only major slip on both trips being a failure to bring plates for sharing dishes. I'm surprised this place isn't talked about more here--there's plenty here to appeal to those used to standard-order Thai restaurants as well as those seeking more authentic flavors--and in a very attractive setting. This is going in our regular rotation.

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If you read all the reviews in our Soi 38 thread, you'll notice that they're 100% positive. There's a reason for that.

On a Sunday evening, I sallied up to the bar in a relatively empty Soi 38, only to be greeted by a wonderfully friendly server (who looked as if she was doubling as bartender in case any customers came) - it was getting towards Christmas, and many downtown restaurants were fairly empty in the evenings, so for awhile, it was just me at the bar, me and two TVs at this large, delightfully decorated restaurant with extremely friendly and knowledgeable FOH staff. My delightful server, was from Bangkok, and knew Thai food seemingly very well (at one point we began discussing Thai restaurants we enjoy, and she recommended Sawatdee and also, somewhat surprisingly, Thai Square. I asked her if she'd tried Little Serow, and she said no, but it was something she very much wanted to try because she'd heard great things about it (even from her Thai friends). Her name, I believe (and I wouldn't say this if she wasn't outstanding in every way), was Mui.

I began with the oh-so-Thai beer Estella Damm ($6) - I'm sorry, I like it! Plus they had a folding sign outside listing that as a happy-hour special (it was a mistake - there were no happy hour specials that evening, but we're talking two bucks, so no big deal). Then, after sipping my beer for awhile and watching basketball, I ordered an appetizer, an entree, and lunch the next day.

Mee Krob ($7) was just what I wanted to start with. The name literally means "crispy noodles" (visualize medium-thin, white, rice-based noodles that you'd love to eat like potato chips as a snack). These were presented with several lovely shrimp, cooked well enough where I didn't bother removing the shell, along with a little bit of uncondescending sweet-and-sour sauce (something like a thin, homemade, Indian, <--- am I supposed to use the Harvard comma here? tamarind chutney), bits of pork, some beaten egg, thinly sliced shallots, and some jalapeí±os, onions, etc. as a garnish for the bold and daring. The plate was small, and it might be a better idea (since this should really all be mixed together at some point in the dish) to use a bowl in which to serve it - you don't want any precious noodles to go plummeting over the edges, nor to be using your finger as a food stop.

About halfway through the Mee Krob, my Kua Kling ($15) arrived (I asked Mui to go ahead and have it fired, and bring it whenever it was ready). She raised an eyebrow when I ordered this, but issued no warnings which I appreciated. Oh damn it was hot. I had never seen this dish before, and had absolutely no idea what to expect; only that it was described as a ¨dried curry,"and I knew it was from the South. It was ground pork, and arrived looking something like this. After one bite, I knew I could only take a few (I wasn't that hungry to begin with, and also knew that I could doctor it a bit at home). It's a *great* dish, and I said as much to Mui when she noticed I wasn't eating much of it - my suggestion is to share it with someone, and eat it with other dishes; not by itself as a stand-alone: You'll be happy if you do.

To take home for lunch, a Pad See Ew ($14, no lunch discount when you order to go at dinnertime!) with stir-fried pork loin, wide rice noodles, Chinese broccoli, egg, and sweet soy sauce.

Even though I'd ordered quite a bit of food, I hadn't actually eaten all that much, so a little dessert sounded perfect, and nothing is ever more perfect than Khao Neaw Mamuang ($7), the classic Thai dessert, mango with sticky rice - delicious, sliced fresh mangos (I'd love to know where they got these), served on a plate next to a thin layer of sticky rice, and topped with warm coconut milk, and pinched with sugar and salt - for me, this is the perfect "comfort dessert," and one which I actually crave sometimes when I'm sitting home and working. There isn't much unhealthy about it, either. I remember the first time I ever tried this was with Member Number One at Bangkok-Vientiane (which became Bangkok Blues, but used to have an excellent Thai cook as Bangkok-Vientiane). It was "love at first bite" with this dish, and I haven't stopped loving it - I don't think it would be possible for me to ever get tired of it, and I would travel to Thailand just to do a culinary tour of this with different, fresh mangos. Gosh, what a vacation that would be.

Lunch the next day was *perfect*. After trying a few nibbles of the excellent Pad See Ew, I dumped the rest of the Kua Kling into it, stirred it altogether, and microwaved it for several minutes. The heat of the Kua Kling complimented the sweet, salty Pad See Ew, and vice-versa - it was a fantastic mixture of flavors, and for those bold enough to experiment like this, I cannot recommend the combination of the two dishes any more than I do. Everything was in balance, and even though I felt like a heathen (this is like mixing Bordeaux and Burgundy), synergy took two very good dishes, and made them into an outstanding one.

Soi 38 is the best Thai food I've ever had in DC that wasn't from Little Serow (I haven't yet been to Thip Kao). It's better than anything I've had in Maryland except possibly the first dinner I ever had at Sabai Sabai Simply Thai, and in Virginia, only Thai Square from the 90s can approach its level of quality, although the style of cooking is completely different (there was also one amazing dinner the first time I tried the now-closed Burapa Thai in Clarendon). I'm certainly not trying to play the silly game of "ranking" these restaurants against each other; merely suggesting that we have a major Thai restaurant on our hands with Soi 38, one which you'll like, and might just love.

And thank you very much, Mui, for a lovely meal.

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Soi 38 is the best Thai food I've ever had in DC that wasn't from Little Serow (I haven't yet been to Thip Kao).]

Thanks, Don.  Looking forward to trying Soi 38.  FWIW, no Thai food at Thip Khao (unlike Bangkok Golden) -- only Laotian.  And yes, it's great (even if a *bit* less complex in spicing than I'd hoped . . . at least for now).

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Thanks, Don.  Looking forward to trying Soi 38.  FWIW, no Thai food at Thip Khao (unlike Bangkok Golden) -- only Laotian.  And yes, it's great (even if a *bit* less complex in spicing than I'd hoped . . . at least for now).

Oh! I didn't realize Thip Khao was Laotian only - I wonder if they'll be able to keep that up going forward.

And Marty, as many times as you've helped me in the past (e.g., telling me about Pho Hot for the very first time), I owe you more recommendations than I can count.

Cheers,

Rocks

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Oh! I didn't realize Thip Khao was Laotian only - I wonder if they'll be able to keep that up going forward. 

I have the opposite concern--that the huge crush will overwhelm Seng and her kitchen (and/or lead to a watering down in Falls Church, which won't be so much my problem, since I'll frequent TK much more frequently); and that it'll be impossible to get a table.  So far, so good, though; fingers crossed.

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I had a nice lunch at the bar at Soi 38 today. The Mee Krob ($7) was good, but served with only a single small shrimp and no garnishes as Don had described. The shrimp was good, and the fact that there was only one was not a problem as the dish was quite flavorful--perhaps it was the difference between the lunch dish and the dinner dish (although the price was the same). I also think that the version that I received had dried sliced tofu, which was very good. It could have been something else, but it had the texture and appearance of a bean curd.

I also had the Gaeng Hung Lay ($15), a spicy red curry with absolutely delicious pork belly and ginger. This was quite spicy for me, and served with a nice side of sticky rice to take the edge off, it was a perfect lunch on a cold winter's day.

Service was fine--not overly friendly at the bar, but they were busy.

My only complaint is that the menu on their website is very different than what you get at the restaurant. They should correct this.

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I had a nice lunch at the bar at Soi 38 today. The Mee Krob ($7) was good, but served with only a single small shrimp and no garnishes as Don had described. The shrimp was good, and the fact that there was only one was not a problem as the dish was quite flavorful--perhaps it was the difference between the lunch dish and the dinner dish (although the price was the same). I also think that the version that I received had dried sliced tofu, which was very good. It could have been something else, but it had the texture and appearance of a bean curd.

You're right - there aren't a lot of shrimp on that dish. I had written that review from memory (going on two weeks), and even for dinner, there may have only been 1-2 shrimp (I'm guessing two), and I also remember they weren't huge shrimp; it's more of a "mix-it-together" quasi-salad than a shrimp dish.

I'm also vaguely remembering a tiny mound of bean sprouts (think: Pho garnish) off to the side - was this with the Mee Krob or the Kua King? If you didn't have it today, they came with the Kua King.

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Was looking forward to it, but unfortunately we had a decidedly mediocre meal at Soi 38 tonight -- very generic, and not cheap.  Not nearly as interesting or tasty as Thai Taste by Kob, and [apples/oranges alert] the whole time I was lamenting that I wasn't having another superlative (and less expensive) meal at Thip Khao.  Perhaps it was just an off-night; but I doubt I'll risk another visit unless others' reports are overwhelmingly enthusiastic.

If you read all the reviews in our Soi 38 thread, you'll notice that they're 100% positive. There's a reason for that.

On a Sunday evening, I sallied up to the bar in a relatively empty Soi 38, only to be greeted by a wonderfully friendly server (who looked as if she was doubling as bartender in case any customers came) - it was getting towards Christmas, and many downtown restaurants were fairly empty in the evenings, so for awhile, it was just me at the bar, me and two TVs at this large, delightfully decorated restaurant with extremely friendly and knowledgeable FOH staff. My delightful server, was from Bangkok, and knew Thai food seemingly very well (at one point we began discussing Thai restaurants we enjoy, and she recommended Sawatdee and also, somewhat surprisingly, Thai Square. I asked her if she'd tried Little Serow, and she said no, but it was something she very much wanted to try because she'd heard great things about it (even from her Thai friends). Her name, I believe (and I wouldn't say this if she wasn't outstanding in every way), was Mui.

I began with the oh-so-Thai beer Estella Damm ($6) - I'm sorry, I like it! Plus they had a folding sign outside listing that as a happy-hour special (it was a mistake - there were no happy hour specials that evening, but we're talking two bucks, so no big deal). Then, after sipping my beer for awhile and watching basketball, I ordered an appetizer, an entree, and lunch the next day.

Mee Krob ($7) was just what I wanted to start with. The name literally means "crispy noodles" (visualize medium-thin, white, rice-based noodles that you'd love to eat like potato chips as a snack). These were presented with several lovely shrimp, cooked well enough where I didn't bother removing the shell, along with a little bit of uncondescending sweet-and-sour sauce (something like a thin, homemade, Indian, <--- am I supposed to use the Harvard comma here? tamarind chutney), bits of pork, some beaten egg, thinly sliced shallots, and some jalapeí±os, onions, etc. as a garnish for the bold and daring. The plate was small, and it might be a better idea (since this should really all be mixed together at some point in the dish) to use a bowl in which to serve it - you don't want any precious noodles to go plummeting over the edges, nor to be using your finger as a food stop.

About halfway through the Mee Krob, my Kua Kling ($15) arrived (I asked Mui to go ahead and have it fired, and bring it whenever it was ready). She raised an eyebrow when I ordered this, but issued no warnings which I appreciated. Oh damn it was hot. I had never seen this dish before, and had absolutely no idea what to expect; only that it was described as a ¨dried curry,"and I knew it was from the South. It was ground pork, and arrived looking something like this. After one bite, I knew I could only take a few (I wasn't that hungry to begin with, and also knew that I could doctor it a bit at home). It's a *great* dish, and I said as much to Mui when she noticed I wasn't eating much of it - my suggestion is to share it with someone, and eat it with other dishes; not by itself as a stand-alone: You'll be happy if you do.

To take home for lunch, a Pad See Ew ($14, no lunch discount when you order to go at dinnertime!) with stir-fried pork loin, wide rice noodles, Chinese broccoli, egg, and sweet soy sauce.

Even though I'd ordered quite a bit of food, I hadn't actually eaten all that much, so a little dessert sounded perfect, and nothing is ever more perfect than Khao Neaw Mamuang ($7), the classic Thai dessert, mango with sticky rice - delicious, sliced fresh mangos (I'd love to know where they got these), served on a plate next to a thin layer of sticky rice, and topped with warm coconut milk, and pinched with sugar and salt - for me, this is the perfect "comfort dessert," and one which I actually crave sometimes when I'm sitting home and working. There isn't much unhealthy about it, either. I remember the first time I ever tried this was with Member Number One at Bangkok-Vientiane (which became Bangkok Blues, but used to have an excellent Thai cook as Bangkok-Vientiane). It was "love at first bite" with this dish, and I haven't stopped loving it - I don't think it would be possible for me to ever get tired of it, and I would travel to Thailand just to do a culinary tour of this with different, fresh mangos. Gosh, what a vacation that would be.

Lunch the next day was *perfect*. After trying a few nibbles of the excellent Pad See Ew, I dumped the rest of the Kua Kling into it, stirred it altogether, and microwaved it for several minutes. The heat of the Kua Kling complimented the sweet, salty Pad See Ew, and vice-versa - it was a fantastic mixture of flavors, and for those bold enough to experiment like this, I cannot recommend the combination of the two dishes any more than I do. Everything was in balance, and even though I felt like a heathen (this is like mixing Bordeaux and Burgundy), synergy took two very good dishes, and made them into an outstanding one.

Soi 38 is the best Thai food I've ever had in DC that wasn't from Little Serow (I haven't yet been to Thip Kao). It's better than anything I've had in Maryland except possibly the first dinner I ever had at Sabai Sabai Simply Thai, and in Virginia, only Thai Square from the 90s can approach its level of quality, although the style of cooking is completely different (there was also one amazing dinner the first time I tried the now-closed Burapa Thai in Clarendon). I'm certainly not trying to play the silly game of "ranking" these restaurants against each other; merely suggesting that we have a major Thai restaurant on our hands with Soi 38, one which you'll like, and might just love.

And thank you very much, Mui, for a lovely meal.

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Was looking forward to it, but unfortunately we had a decidedly mediocre meal at Soi 38 tonight -- very generic, and not cheap.  Not nearly as interesting or tasty as Thai Taste by Kob, and [apples/oranges alert] the whole time I was lamenting that I wasn't having another superlative (and less expensive) meal at Thip Khao.  Perhaps it was just an off-night; but I doubt I'll risk another visit unless others' reports are overwhelmingly enthusiastic.

The only reason I'm not "Liking" this (believe it or not, I love it when people disagree with me because it gives me something to look for) is because you didn't go into detail, and I need to know what to order, and what not to order, next time.

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Right now, in DC and environs... We have some riches - some better than others and some slightly different than others - of very good southeast Asian food

Soi 38 has hits

Thip Khao hits on most dishes

Little Serow is amazing but pricey (but maybe not, depending on how you order at other places)

Thai X-ing still nails a lot, but it's not 2009

As you leave DC

Ruan/Nava/whatever is still very good

Bangkok Golden is the champion

Duangrat very good

We are very lucky. This area could become the non-SF center for good Lao/northern Thai/isaan food

When I have guests from out of town, there are all happy and excited about the options, and the high quality of the food. My thoughts are if you are in DC, no car, trek to Thip Khao right now. If you have a car, get to Bangkok Golden. Otherwise, the above options are all excellent.

The only thing you have to kaffir is kaffir itself

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The only reason I'm not "Liking" this (believe it or not, I love it when people disagree with me because it gives me something to look for) is because you didn't go into detail, and I need to know what to order, and what not to order, next time.

Moo Yang Kati Sod and Yum Goong Fu appetizers -- both fine, if unmemorable.  Pad Cha Talay, Pad See Eew and Khao Pad Sapparod for entrees.  Latter two were very bland; former was spicy, but no complexity and fairly tasteless seafood.  Lime ginger fizz had no kick, and very little taste of ginger or lemongrass.

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Moo Yang Kati Sod and Yum Goong Fu appetizers -- both fine, if unmemorable.  Pad Cha Talay, Pad See Eew and Khao Pad Sapparod for entrees.  Latter two were very bland; former was spicy, but no complexity and fairly tasteless seafood.  Lime ginger fizz had no kick, and very little taste of ginger or lemongrass.

Thank you! And ...

The only thing you have to kaffir is kaffir itself

*Thank you*!

If there appears to be a discrepancy here, I'm not sure that's the case. Remember: I only had four dishes at Soi 38, one entirely the next day, and 95% of that dish mixed in with a wild accompaniment.

SVT is spot-on about the Mee Krob.

I'm pretty sure I'm right about the Kua King - it needs to be eaten in a group, or as I did.

The Khao Neaw Mamuang was served at the perfect temperature, sweetness, and saltiness, with good mango (nothing not to like).

Pad See Ew was 95% jazzed up by the Kua King, and (recall, it's a noodle dish) eaten the next day.

I would put more faith in Marty's review than in mine - please remember, I'm not rating restaurants; I'm writing about meals (big difference). Marty knows what he's doing. I do, too, but he tried more dishes than I did, and I trust him. I say: Go with his review as your strongest data point for now, and let's keep hammering away at this.

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I would put more faith in Marty's review than in mine - please remember, I'm not rating restaurants; I'm writing about meals (big difference). Marty knows what he's doing. I do, too, but he tried more dishes than I did, and I trust him. I say: Go with his review as your strongest data point for now, and let's keep hammering away at this.

No!!! Thanks for the trust, Don (not sure I deserve it).  But mine is clearly the outlier among this esteemed group; and I would be mortified to think that my post caused any establishment to significantly lose customers from this site (a fear that often holds me back from posting a pan -- people are working hard in a very tenuous industry; and online slams can destroy livelihoods).  I am fairly confident I had a decidedly unremarkable (and therefore greatly overpriced) meal last night . . . but I have no reason to think that the accounts in the posts above are in any way unreliable.  Sounds as if my meal was not representative -- or, at most, that what we have here is an inconsistent kitchen (or menu), in which case we need to develop strategies for figuring out how to make the most of a meal at Soi 38.

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I had dinner at Soi 38 tonight.  My experience was mixed.  I also had the Mee Krob- I was curious after the discussion here.  My dish only had one shrimp and tofu (no pork).  I didn't think it had much flavor and was not impressed. For an entree I had sriracha fried rice with chicken thighs, basil, and green peppers.  This was disappointing.  It had a bit of heat, but there was nothing interesting about the dish.  (I had to come back in and edit my comments- I'm eating leftovers of this right now and it's better the next day!)

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My husband, son, and daughter-in-law had the whole fish catch of the day- which was rockfish.  One was steamed with lemongrass, chili, and garlic.  The other was fried with Thai spicy chili sauce.  They raved about both preparations. The fish was far superior to what I ordered. They also had an appetizer with tofu and chilis that they really enjoyed (don't remember the name and it isn't listed online). Take note:  the online menu is fairly different from the one currently being offered in the restaurant.  There were previously more noodle dishes, and a section wholly devoted to curries.  This is no longer on the menu, although some curry dishes are available.

The decor at Soi 38 is beautiful, and there are other dishes on the menu that look appealing.  But I'm not compelled to rush back.

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I don't think anyone has mentioned the khao soi yet, but my wife and I shared that and the kua kling for lunch yesterday.  The khao soi was absolutely delicious...thick, rich, warming curry broth, contrasting soft and crunchy noodles, fall-off-the-bone chicken thigh, and just the right amount of sour cabbage to cut through the curry.  It'll be hard for me not to order that again when we go back.

The kua kling was certainly hot, but with a good complexity of flavor underneath the heat.  It was served simply, with steamed rice on the side, and I'm sure that's traditional, but I would love to use the pork in a ssam-like preparation, with sticky rice and lettuce leaves.  I think something acidic would have been a nice addition (even as simple as a squeeze of lime).

Our little guy had the grilled pork neck, which was good but not as deeply caramelized as our first visit, and a side of eggplant with sesame and ginger.  This was a nice, flavorful but mild (heat-wise) compliment to the other dishes we had.  The eggplant was nicely cooked in that it retained some structure and "bite" and wasn't mushy at all.

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This thread is a classic example of why good (at least for me but know some others agree) to try a place 2 or 3 times before forming too firm a view. I found Soi 38 to be fine on one visit there last year for a birthday celebration.  We all liked it but agreed most of the other heralded Thai spots around town (MoCo, NoVa and in DC) were probably better all in.  The location is also a bit concerning from a business perspective since the area shuts down at night.  I like Simul Parikh's take on it:

Right now, in DC and environs... We have some riches - some better than others and some slightly different than others - of very good southeast Asian food

But, then reading a nice detailed post like JoshNE's above:

I don't think anyone has mentioned the khao soi yet, but..

We didn't get the khao soi when we went. Need to go back and give it another chance with some of the preferred dishes above.

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I ate there last night and I agree with Rocks, this is the best Thai food in the area not coming out of Little Serow.  I'll admit, I'm a sucker for properly prepared Chinese broccoli, and both dishes I tried last night (Pad See Ew and Kana Moo Krob) were loaded with delicious, mustardy chunks of it, but overall the preparation, quality, and overall ambiance are far superior to any Thai place I've been to recently.

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8 hours ago, captcourt said:

Has anyone gone here recently?  We haven't yet gone, and are probably going to Little Serow first, but we're making a list of places we need to try and this is definitely on that list.  If the answer is, it's still awesome, great!

I was there a few months ago, and it's still fantastic.

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Had dinner here with some friends on Friday. Overall, it was OK, but not great. We had:

Nua Dadd Deaw - fried sun-dried beef. Pleasant enough.

Chicken Sate - the peanut sauce was very good but the chicken itself lacked flavor.

Moo Yang Kati Sod - quite good pork belly skewers.

Pla muk yang - a few pieces of grilled squid. Pretty disappointing, not much squid, and not much flavor.

For my main I had the Kua Kling. They had run out of ground pork so I had it with sliced pork. It was a little one-dimensional - extremely spicy, which I liked, but didn't have that mix of other strong flavors that I associate with good thai food. Shared a side of eggplant with ginger, which was fine.

Service was very good.

Maybe I ordered poorly, but I didn't see what the fuss was about. What I had was no better than many other Thai restaurants in the region, and certainly didn't have the freshness and flavors of Little Serow or Bangkok Golden.

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