Every once in a while you stumble upon a dining experience that is simply magical; a meal that sets the standard for what all other dining experiences ought to be. My trip to Thai Xing was one such event. Everything from making the reservation to using the facilities was an adventure.
Getting a reservation at this spot is nothing short of daunting. I tried (less than diligently I’ll admit) for a year before securing a reservation. This is due to the fact that the process of getting the coveted reservation involves calling and leaving a very detailed and specific message including your name, number, & desired date and times of your meal. The hostess then checks the availability and calls you back to arrange a time . . . if you’re lucky. I imagine a tiny ancient Thai woman, reading tea leaves, divining the future, preforming voodoo, and consulting the ancestors in order to see if there was any availability on the requested date. I had tried twice before, and had been rejected both times. The third time was a charm; I secured a reservation for the date I requested. I decided to take my chances and tenatively inquired if there was any availability for a party of two. Some how, the heavens parted, and my daring was rewarded with an affirmative from the hostess & reservations for the night in questions. I then of course took part in a celebratory dance around my workplace, bragging to my coworkers about coupe I had made in getting such exclusive reservations. Just as their seething hatred was about to surpass restraint I revealed that I had made a second reservation. Having thus waylaid a violent beating, I made a hasty retreat before feelings of jealously overcame my coworkers’ reservations regarding violence.
I’ll admit that my first trip to Thai Xing found me so enthralled with the cuisine and ambiance that I forgot to take pictures. I did not make the same mistake on my second visit. . On both trips my mind was blown with both the authenticity and flavor-fulness of the food. Let me set the scene for you. From the street decadent foliage hides the entrance to Thai Xing, though this same foliage highlights that something special is hidden behind the wall of leaves. Once inside the ambiance is reminiscent of Bilbo Baggins home, Bag End, in the The Lord of The Rings. Thai Xing, has transformed an ordinary English basement into a magical den of Thai tastiness. Eating here is like eating at a friends home, even down to the fact that in order to get to the bathroom, patrons must travel through the kitchen.
Since it’s opening, Thai Xing has expanded to the upstairs. If you’re lucky enough to be given a choice of where to sit on your first visit, I highly recommend sitting downstairs. The space is so cramped that you are virtually sitting in the other patron’s laps. This adds to the experience; Thai Xing is like going to a friends house for the most amazing homemade food ever. From every seat in the basement, you can see into the kitchen and watch Chef Taw Vigsittaboot making delicious delicious magic. There is one waitress who sees to all of your needs. There is no bar. Before you write Thai Xing off, let me reveal to you that Thai Xing is that most rare of rarities in the District of Columbia: BYOB. Take a moment to savor that enticing detail before I blow your mind with another: Thai Xing does not charge a corking fee. Now that you’re shaking with excitement lets discuss the food.
First, if you haven’t done your research, be forewarned that there is no menu in the traditional sense. Be prepared to abdicate the complicated restaurant decision making process and simply sit back and enjoy the delights brought to your taste-buds by Chef Taw. You can check out the menu below.
Second: Thai Xing is not the place for the super picky. If you have dietary restrictions, allergies, or are just not adventurous I highly suggest going to their sister restaurant Beau Thai, where you will have more control over your dining experience. Other than your wine selection, all choices are taken out of your hands. On my second visit, a woman behind me asked if they could keep the spice level of the food to a minimum because her companion was especially sensitive to any type of spice. I was horrified at her audacity as where the other patrons. It was almost like hearing the music stop when the wrong person walks into the wrong bar and says the wrong thing: that awkward. Chef Taw and his staff slave mercilessly to bring your taste buds the most authentically delectable Thai dishes, the only acceptable commentary is “Thank You”.
The magic of Thai Xing is that you sit down and food simply appears on your table. Our meal started off with a stuffed cucumber soup. The cucumber was stuffed with ground beef(I think) and served in a tasty broth garnished with cilantro. This was my first time with a stuffed cucumber soup and I can safely say that it was a tastefully mesmerizing experience.Following the soup, we were presented with two salads: a Papaya Salad and a Minced Chicken Salad. The papaya salad was a perfect blend of crispy and tangy. I enjoyed the minced chicken salad, but found myself helplessly returning to the papaya salad time and time again. And then the real food arrived.
Riced rained down on the table like manna from heaven, and was accompanied by two beef dishes: curry beef & an eggplant beef dish. Nothing was overly spicy, overly salty, overcooked, or under cooked. Portions were extremely generous; I ate with three boys and everyone left in a state of satiated gluttony. Everything was served on a traditional bed of banana leaves. For me the highlight of the meal was the pumpkin curry, which I mixed generously with the beef dishes, adding to the perfection of flavors and textures.
I can safely say, that at this point, I was completely satisfied: stuffed full. I couldn’t imagine eating another bite. I was expressing my contentment and fulfillment, when the waitress brought more food to the table. I actually looked at her in horror. My companions (all boys) however were literally shaking with excitement, as the waitress set a steaming plate of tofu Pad See Ew on the table in addition to a fish dish (not shown). While the fish was tasty, it was possibly the most unremarkable aspect of the meal.
I attempted and succeeded in sampling my share of the Pad See Ew and was rewarded with perfectly prepared noodles, accompanied by vegetables in a savory sauce. My tastebuds rejoiced with the marvels presented them, while my stomach protested the sheer quantity that it was being forced carry. I was about to unbutton my pants, when the waitress had the nerve to put yet another dish on our table. This time it was mango sticky rice. I flat out refused to sample it (mostly because I had had it before). My companions looked slightly perplexed. Though they made a valiant effort to each have a spoonful, most of the dessert stayed at the restaurant.
Though Thai Xing is only a short distance from my house, my experience there led me to believe that walking home was not the best decision I’ve ever made. I would have preferred to taxi the two blocks or ridden piggy back. All in all, not only was the food amazing, the experience was made completely unforgettable by the Chef Taw, the ambiance, and good friends. I will most certainly be returning.