Esaan Northeastern Thai Cuisine
McLean / Northern Thai / $$
Too many of us think first of coconut milk and chiles when Thai food is on the horizon. Esaan Northeastern Thai Cuisine is here to remind us that lime, fish sauce, and mint are just as important. After all, the nation’s chefs are famous for their use of the four major flavors: sweet, sour, spicy, and salty. All are prominent in the fresh fare here, but forget about the heavy curries you suck up when supping on Southern Thai food.
The lean, mean cuisine from the North is beautifully represented by a dish called yum kai zapp. The spicy deep-fried chicken salad could make the keto gods weep, but don’t worry: There’s sticky rice on the side if you need it to temper the heat. The juicy, crispy breast meat is lightly soaked in a lime-flavored dressing and gets a smack of heat from dried chiles. Mint, cilantro, and red onion light up the flavor like a sunny day. Just a reminder that there’s so much more than creamy curries when dining Thai-style.
See this: A full-sized motorcycle takes up one corner of this petite, dark wood–lined haven.
Eat this: Kai kra ta, yum kai zapp, sticky rice with Thai custard
Service: Personalized. Expect owner Tu Yutthpon to check in on you himself when he’s there.
When to dine here: Chiles, lime, and mint will revive you during a workday lunch or wake you up after a long day.