In the rapidly changing socioeconomic climate of Washington DC’s four quadrants, where gentrification, demolition and reconstruction are regular headlines of the weekly post- a place as unpretentious, affordable and exquisitely palatable as Shaw’s, Thai X-ing is a diamond in the rough.
Owner and chef Taw Vigsittaboot’s, now renowned DC hot spot, opened back in 2004 as a basement carry-out. Operating out of a row-house on a street so dodgy that his clientele ranged from the officers investigating a decomposing body in the bathtub next door to a plethora of locals who happened upon it by chance and were drawn back repeatedly by the unmatched, authentic flavors of his one-of a kind creations.
Within the first few months of operation, customers had learned to call in orders hours prior to their meals as his business volume increased.
This newfound popularity prompted Vigsittaboot to do something very different to what one might expect of a seemingly succeeding restaurant-owner in a challenging business climate, where 75% of new restaurants fail within their first three years of operation. Instead of hiring more staff, buying fancy gadgets, or raising prices, Taw made friends. His one man show began to see a steady rotation of locals, young startup kids and elderly, retired patrons alike moonlighting as dishwashers and line cooks in exchange for a free meal and a close-up view of the artist’s process.
Thai X-ings dishes reflect the artistic vision of a classically trained fine-artist. Vigsittaboot, brings his eclectic talents to the kitchen as he carefully details lime wedges around the pad see ew and arranges courses to balance the sweet, spicy, sour or tart flavors of traditional southern thai cuisine, in a manner reminiscent of Rembrandt’s chiaroscuro.
In the decade since its opening, Thai X-ing’s menu has graduated to a set, prix-fixe meal of entirely chef selected seasonal offerings. A set of three appetizers is brought out almost immediately upon seating and arrive with the server as she asks for our drink orders. The flavors do not disappoint. A spicy papaya salad, fresh spring rolls, and a tangy lemon grass soup warm the palate and lubricate my appetite as I enjoy the candle-lit atmosphere in the eclectically decorated dining room. The air sizzles with a variety of tantalizing aromas.
Entrees are served family style. Several plates are brought out to our table simultaneously with a bowl of steaming brown rice. The pumpkin curry, beef salad, and salmon are a fantastic burst of flavors and textures- savory yet delicate, spicy yet sweet. The plates are lined with banana leaves, heightening the various flavors and complementing the colorful, aesthetic progression of our dining experience.
Just when it seems there couldn’t be more, all the dishes are cleared away to make room for a generous serving of noodles. The pad see ew is sprinkled with fresh bean sprouts, ground peanuts, and egg. This is definitely a place where you get your money’s worth in satiation.
The dessert, a mango sticky rice is the cream of the crop. Tantalizingly mushy and flavorfully sweet, sprinkled with blueberries and strawberries, the mango- perfectly ripe. This dish alone is great enough to mark my meal a winning choice. Five star dining quality at affordable prices, without the shmooze or glammar of white table clothed stuffiness- Thai X-ing lives up to the hype.