Choosing the best shops for any sort of ethnic cuisine is always a bit difficult, because markets in wealthy American cities often dictate what will and won’t sell. If palates in a certain area can’t handle particular flavors, or heat, or -- more importantly -- afford upscale rent, you’ll most likely have to journey into the suburbs for authentic cooking. Such is DC’s relationship with Thai cooking. While DC proper has its fair share of quality shops slinging spicy green curries, zesty fried fish, and crispy rice salads, if you really want to get at the Thai heat that will burn the tongue out of your skull, you’re probably going to have to take a trip into Maryland or Virginia.
The following is a list of eight of the best Thai restaurants in the DMV, spanning a range of price points and neighborhoods (and heat levels).
One of DC’s Thai legends, Thai X-ing is a prix fixe, reservation-only affair that is one of two names that are usually uttered in the same breath when the topic of Thai food is raised in this city (the other one follows below). $30 during the week and $40 on the weekends gets you five or six courses of family style Thai cuisine. The menu varies from day to day, but generally begins with a soup, papaya salad, and some kind of satay. From there, one of the best known dishes in all of DC hits your table. The pumpkin curry is incredibly tender and covered in a mild red curry made aromatic by fresh basil. It’s at once creamy and hearty, with the silky texture of the squash and the balancing notes of heat and sweetness -- a highlight of an already excellent meal.