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Nana Thai (Formerly Old Siam) - Issan (Northeastern Regional) Thai on 8th and D Street SE on Barracks Row - Closed


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I love living on Capitol Hill-- beautiful strolls through the neighborhood and the Capitol grounds, parks, quick access to Union Station and the Metro, Schneiders, and of course an easy 10 minute stroll to Eastern Market. But as everyone knows, the restaurant scene leaves a lot to be desired. However, there are a handful of gems scattered about, and I think Old Siam may get there one day, but it's going to be a long trip before they even reach the semi-precious stage.

They're certainly doing brisk business and the space itself is warm and inviting. We sat and had a cocktail at the bar and asked for a table and were soon directed to the front of the restaurant where we were seated at a tiny two-top in the window. Unfortunately this is where everyone stands around waiting for a table. For whatever reason, the crowd hovering over us was predominantly young and female so it sounded like we were in the tropical bird exhibit during feeding time at a zoo. So, after ordering, we asked to go back to the bar and ate dinner there.

I enjoyed a spicy lemon grass soup with a few shrimp and mushrooms. But we also tried some pork and shrimp dumplings that had a slightly off, vaguely gym locker kind of aroma. The vegetable pad thai was mushy and oily and lacked focus. It was as though they threw a random assortment of vegetable scraps into the stir fy. We also had what was described on the menu as simply "basil duck". This was supposed to be one of their more spicy offerings (which I gravitate towards), but instead I was presented with a deep fried breast in a syrupy sweet sauce. The batter was so dense that I ate only a few slices before I felt like I had swallowed a lead weight.

Wine selection was pedestrian but fairly priced by DC standards. A couple of drinks each, two apps and two entrees came to $55 before tip. I'll give it another chance someday, but it won't be anytime soon. Maybe I need to open my own damn restaurant in this neighborhood.

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For whatever reason, the crowd hovering over us was predominantly young and female so it sounded like we were in the tropical bird exhibit during feeding time at a zoo. So, after ordering, we asked to go back to the bar and ate dinner there.

 
Isn't it amazing how, the minute you decide to get married, every former opportunity turns into just another pain in the ass? laugh.gif

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Isn't it amazing how, the minute you decide to get married, every former opportunity turns into just another pain in the ass? :lol:

And isn't it amazing how your reaction shifts again a year or two later? ;)

We also had what was described on the menu as simply "basil duck". This was supposed to be one of their more spicy offerings (which I gravitate towards), but instead I was presented with a deep fried breast in a syrupy sweet sauce. The batter was so dense that I ate only a few slices before I felt like I had swallowed a lead weight.

If this is "Duck Kaprow", this is usually my go-to preparation at Thai restaurants with chicken or beef. But so many places make it so sweet. Most of the time it makes me wish I was making it at home where I can really make it fire-y.

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Old Siam, the new Thai Place, I think is an exception, as is Belga; I've enjoyed my meals at these places.

I was really disappointed with Old Siam. It did not live up to my expectations (which weren't that high in the first place). The only decent dishes we had were the Thai spring rolls, that were a special, and their version of Laab. The soft shells were bad and left me feeling sick. The green curry, which was supposed to be hot, wasn't.

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I hit Old Siam last night and came away with a favorable impression. For a once local dive bar they have done a pretty good job of turning it into an attractive space. I suspect that the food is geared to the sweeter side for the American palette, but everything had a clean fresh flavor. My dining companions weren't up for spicy so we steered clear of anything marked hot, so I can't comment on the spice levels.

The spring rolls were nice, the steamed dumplings adequate, and the ginger salad with minced chicken was pretty good. I liked the presentation of each dish.

we then had the penang chicken, which was definitely mild but nice and coconuty, but definitely sweet and the pad thai which was pretty standard for a DC Thai restaurant.

Entrees run $9 to $14. The staff doesn't seem to speak english too well so the service is a bit confused.

It's certainly not going to be a knock your socks off kinda Thai restaurant, but I would rate it at least on par with the other Thai restaurants I've been to in the District.

post-44-1122477714_thumb.jpeg

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The +1 and I tried Old Siam last night - we hadn't heard much about it, it's in the neighborhood, and we were too tired to head out to Arlington for Bangkok 54 or Thai Square, so it seemed like a good bet. Everything started out well with tasty Tom Yum soup and summer rolls - all the ingredients were fresh, the rolls had plenty of cilantro and, I think, shiso, and the Tom Yum was more complex-tasting than some (i.e. it was seasoned with more than just chili oil). I moved on to the green papaya salad, which was not spicy at all (not just "not spicy for green papaya salad"), but otherwise fine - just not what I expected a green papaya salad to be. My dining companion had pork drunken noodle, which was underwhelming - rubbery noodles, and the pork was ground. Also not spicy at all (despite the menu's assignment of three chili peppers to the dish). Anyway, it wasn't happy hour while we were there, but I'd probably go back another time for a happy hour $2.00 beer and appetizers. The restaurant seemed to be doing fairly well though - two birthday parties were there while we were (and the staff enthusiastically sang happy birthday to both).

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The +1 and I tried Old Siam last night - we hadn't heard much about it, it's in the neighborhood, and we were too tired to head out to Arlington for Bangkok 54 or Thai Square, so it seemed like a good bet. Everything started out well with tasty Tom Yum soup and summer rolls - all the ingredients were fresh, the rolls had plenty of cilantro and, I think, shiso, and the Tom Yum was more complex-tasting than some (i.e. it was seasoned with more than just chili oil). I moved on to the green papaya salad, which was not spicy at all (not just "not spicy for green papaya salad"), but otherwise fine - just not what I expected a green papaya salad to be. My dining companion had pork drunken noodle, which was underwhelming - rubbery noodles, and the pork was ground. Also not spicy at all (despite the menu's assignment of three chili peppers to the dish). Anyway, it wasn't happy hour while we were there, but I'd probably go back another time for a happy hour $2.00 beer and appetizers. The restaurant seemed to be doing fairly well though - two birthday parties were there while we were (and the staff enthusiastically sang happy birthday to both).

My recent experience there was similarly lackluster, with service that appeared to be seriously hampered by linguistic difficulties. I ordered beef and received chicken; a specific and emphatic request for "extra spicy" was completely ignored, etc. The food isn't bad, it's just very dumbed-down Thai. The first time I tried Old Siam, shortly after it opened, I really liked it, but perhaps that was just wishful thinking getting the better of me. Since then it has been a consistent disappointment.

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My recent experience there was similarly lackluster, with service that appeared to be seriously hampered by linguistic difficulties. I ordered beef and received chicken; a specific and emphatic request for "extra spicy" was completely ignored, etc. The food isn't bad, it's just very dumbed-down Thai. The first time I tried Old Siam, shortly after it opened, I really liked it, but perhaps that was just wishful thinking getting the better of me. Since then it has been a consistent disappointment.

We like it. I think "dumbed down" is fair, though we've had a few dishes that are denoted to be spicy and have been quite so. I also think Old Siam is world's better than the other Thai spots on Capitol Hill, for which I am extremely grateful. If you aren't looking for spicy, the Panang is very good.

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I work down that way and have been here a couple of times in the last year. My impression is that while the space is lovelier than your average Thai restaurant, the food is just average. It's a good choice if you're taking someone who is only a little adventurous because it's definitely geared more towards American tastes. Everything is a little sweeter and less spicy than it ought to be.

We've started going to Talay Thai on 1st St which is much better.

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I work down that way and have been here a couple of times in the last year. My impression is that while the space is lovelier than your average Thai restaurant, the food is just average. It's a good choice if you're taking someone who is only a little adventurous because it's definitely geared more towards American tastes. Everything is a little sweeter and less spicy than it ought to be.

We've started going to Talay Thai on 1st St which is much better.

That's been my impression, too. My first meal at Old Siam was good, but the three or four times we were there since then, it has been nothing but bland, bland, bland, with sketchy service as well.

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That's been my impression, too. My first meal at Old Siam was good, but the three or four times we were there since then, it has been nothing but bland, bland, bland, with sketchy service as well.

I'll third that. My early meals there were okay to good, and I do like the atmosphere of the rear area (not the loud south dining room). But I've been increasingly disappointed in the food since, and I haven't been back since I had a horribly cloying curry dish there this past summer. I hope the Thai restaurant in the old Hunan King space--if that is indeed what's going in there--is an improvement.

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I think the best way to describe it is Little Serow Light, not quite the wow factor, service and exuberant highs of Johnny Monis.....but also not quite the wait. Six of us ate there tonight and largely had the back room to ourselves until the end. Most of my dining companions stuck to the "Old Time Favorite (read: standard)" menu but there were a couple dishes off the "Thai Isan Menu" that we tried.

Som Tum Pu: Green papaya salad with salted crab, cherry tomato, lime, peanuts and chili peppers - was good, spicy, sour. However the salted crab was just too funky for my liking. Not sure if this is an acquired taste or whether it was just plain bad. I did find the version without the crab was much more pleasing to my taste.
Aom:  fish with mix veggie, lemongrass, shallot, chili, scallions, cilantro and shrimp paste soup - was rather dramatic in its plating with some sort of metallic candelabra looking bowl holding a broth laden with chil and seafood. It was delicious, there were no leftovers.
Nam Tok: Grilled meat salad with lemongrass, shallot, parsley, chili powder, galanga, scallions, cilantro and mint - was my entree, a pile of red onion, chili and grilled pork rested on a bed of romaine lettuce that I used to make lettuce wraps to go with the sticky rice served alongside the meal. After not eating more than 2 bites of the papaya salad I eagerly tore into this and found that great balance of sour/hot/funk/sweet that I love about Thai food.

The rest of the dishes ordered this evening fell into your standard drunken noodle crowd and really aren't worth mentioning. Would I go back? Sure, if I was in the neighborhood. Would I drive over again from Takoma just get it? Probably not. However, it wouldn't be a bad consolation prize for a diner who got sick of waiting 234987209472347 hours to eat at Roses.

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I think the best way to describe it is Little Serow Light, not quite the wow factor, service and exuberant highs of Johnny Monis.....but also not quite the wait. Six of us ate there tonight and largely had the back room to ourselves until the end. Most of my dining companions stuck to the "Old Time Favorite (read: standard)" menu but there were a couple dishes off the "Thai Isan Menu" that we tried.

Som Tum Pu: Green papaya salad with salted crab, cherry tomato, lime, peanuts and chili peppers - was good, spicy, sour. However the salted crab was just too funky for my liking. Not sure if this is an acquired taste or whether it was just plain bad. I did find the version without the crab was much more pleasing to my taste.
Aom:  fish with mix veggie, lemongrass, shallot, chili, scallions, cilantro and shrimp paste soup - was rather dramatic in its plating with some sort of metallic candelabra looking bowl holding a broth laden with chil and seafood. It was delicious, there were no leftovers.
Nam Tok: Grilled meat salad with lemongrass, shallot, parsley, chili powder, galanga, scallions, cilantro and mint - was my entree, a pile of red onion, chili and grilled pork rested on a bed of romaine lettuce that I used to make lettuce wraps to go with the sticky rice served alongside the meal. After not eating more than 2 bites of the papaya salad I eagerly tore into this and found that great balance of sour/hot/funk/sweet that I love about Thai food.

The rest of the dishes ordered this evening fell into your standard drunken noodle crowd and really aren't worth mentioning. Would I go back? Sure, if I was in the neighborhood. Would I drive over again from Takoma just get it? Probably not. However, it wouldn't be a bad consolation prize for a diner who got sick of waiting 234987209472347 hours to eat at Roses.

[Does anyone know if Nana Thai is a makeover of Old Siam, or if it has new owners?]

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Mrs. and I ate here last night. The hostess was friendly but overall, the service was somewhat lackluster.  When asked if we could change the utensils after the round of sticky appetizers, our waitress who spoke comprehensive English at first pretended not to understand anything we were saying and stared at us until we took the old utensils back.  The food was pretty pedestrian as well.  The papaya salad was adequate but looked very muddy and did not possess a hint of spice. The grilled chicken meatballs were chewy, although we both enjoyed the tamarind sauce that came with them.  My wife's chicken larb was just okay, again, lacking much flavor or spice.  The Kai Yang which was described as herb and cumin spices roasted chicken had an odd aftertaste (not a bad dish but very one note and I could not discern any Thai herbs or cumin) and came with a smoky chicken dressing - tasty at first, but began to taste repetitive after a few bites. Overall, I would not give much credence to the "Isan-style cuisine" tag and would eat elsewhere. 

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My +1 and I had dinner here Sunday night.  Despite living near Barracks Row for 9 months now, we keep gravitating back towards NW DC... but on this beautiful "winter" day, we decided to check out some of the neighborhood standbys and this is a pretty well-rated place.  Despite being fairly hungry not long after a 4 mile run, we were pretty disciplined in our ordering.  I decided to try something a little bit different than usual, a soup I had never seen anywhere else served in a fairly large entree size and labeled "hotpot (but NOT a hotpot like you're thinking):

Tom Sabb - choice of meat/fish, mix veggie, lemongrass, shallot, chili, scallions, cilantro and shrimp paste.  This caught my eye and when I asked who I presumed to be the owner/manager, he urged me to order this instead of the usual tom yum / tom ka.  This was an outstanding soup!  Such complex flavor.  No discernible coconut milk, lots of lemongrass but it didn't overpower the flavor like it can in Tom Yum.  VERY spicy, but acceptably so.  I even found a few chucks of galangal in there.  This tasted every bit as good as most of the dishes I had in Thailand and I think it's because of the high quality, fresh ingredients they used.

Green Curry (Beef) - My +1 ordered this. It was standard beef green curry... but it was pretty darn good.  But it is what it is.

The service was excellent -- we benefited from being one of about 5 occupied tables on a slow winter Sunday.  That said, they seemed to be doing an extremely brisk carryout and delivery business, with the phone ringing off the hook.

All in all, I would definitely recommend Nana Thai as a notch above your average Thai restaurant. And if you go, definitely try the Tom Sabb!  (While a different name, I can't help but think it is the same dish as the Aom described by acgator?)

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