A balance of bright flavors and homey dishes is the signature feel at Thai Square. (Photo by Rey Lopez)By Stefanie Gans and Rina Rapuano
Arlington | Thai | $$
Before even sitting down, a server might helpfully ask where you left your car. That’s because tow-free parking spaces are hard to come by in the area, and this place clearly wants to make sure all that’s remembered after a meal here is how great the food tastes. Start with an order of hae kuen, a sort of pork and shrimp sausage wrapped in bean curd skin adding a delicate crunch, or the nam sod, a bright and spicy salad of pork, fresh ginger, cilantro and lime. There’s a reason you’ll hear tables around you ordering the crispy honey-roasted duck with basil, a dish that deftly marries sweet, savory and spicy.
The crackle on the batter-fried duck is downright masterful, despite it being tossed with a glaze. Fresh chilies, garlic and fried basil add to the party. Chicken with cashews are a fine rendition of the Thai menu staple and loaded up with the namesake nut. For dessert, consider straying from the usual mango with sticky rice in favor of the warm bowl of sweetened black beans, rice and coconut milk registering as comfort food even if you’ve never had it before. The coconut milk teases out the sweet earthiness of the legumes, and the combination totally works. Your spoon will keep dipping back in no matter how many times you try to stop yourself. // 3217 Columbia Pike, Arlington