Thai Noy, Arlington, VA

I remember about six years ago I did a radio show with WETA. Anthony Bourdain was on for the first half hour, and I was on the second half hour (well, at least ONE of us became a household name … sorry Tony).  The host, Rebecca Roberts, asked me to name, off the top of my head, a “good neighborhood restaurant.” My answer? Thai Noy.

I hadn’t been to Thai Noy in a few years because it isn’t a destination by any means, but if you live around the Westover neighborhood of Arlington? Once a week, or at least once a month, for carryout.

Emerald Curry ($12.95) reminded me of why I like (not love, but like) this little mom-n-pop Thai restaurant so much. It’s made with sauteed slices of chicken (I advise getting this particular dish with chicken instead of beef) in spicy (but not that spicy) green curry sauce with green veggies, Thai eggplant, and fresh basil. There’s something about the chicken that sets off this clean, snappy, verdant combination of vegetables and sauce, and as always, I’m a sucker for basil, even when it isn’t summer.

I liked that dish so much that a few nights later, I found myself at Thai Noy again, this time ordering with a bit more trepidation because I ordered a benchmark Thai dish that isn’t quite as easy to execute. Keng Ped Yang ($15.95) is boneless roasted duck in red curry sauce (almost always served with skin on – therein lies the challenge). Thai Noy serves theirs with coconut milk, pineapple, tomatoes, basil, and green and red peppers which is a recipe for potential disaster. But not here. All the elements were in harmony, and the dish was every bit as good as the Emerald Curry. By the time I’d gotten home, waited a while, and reheated it, there was no crispiness in the duck skin, and it still didn’t matter.

The atmosphere at Thai Noy is charming (in a comfortable sort of way), service is always friendly, portions are large, and the cooking is reliable. And I reiterate: Thai Noy takes great pride in using no MSG, and says so on its menu. After all these years, it remains a fine example of what a good neighborhood restaurant should be.

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