Thai Noy, Arlington, VA

(See the March 25, 2011 Review here.)

It was the end of an endless day, a 600-mile back-breaking drive back from Indianapolis with three teenagers, approaching Frederick from the west only to get a phone call saying that I-270 – my only good artery back to DC – was shut down in both directions due to a gas leak.

“Guys, tell your parents all bets are off for arrival time,” I said, with something approaching despondency. After ten minutes of trying to figure out where I’d take them to dinner in Frederick, I regained the presence of mind to cut down U.S. 15 through Point of Rocks and Leesburg, and the road was empty! But as the sun set, and I was fighting exhaustion, we were hit by a tremendous thunderstorm. After the last child was dropped off, my home had never looked so good to me. I poured myself a gin and tonic, slumped down on the couch, and began taking inventory of my body aches.

But I was hungry, and my stay-at-home options were crackers or anchovies, so I rallied up enough strength to phone in a carryout at Thai Noy. I schlepped back to the car, picked up my order, then hobbled over to my dining room table.

Som Tum ($6.95) is often too bland, often too spicy, but Thai Noy’s has just the right balance of cool and hot. Julienned papaya with tomato, lime juice, roasted peanuts, and chili pepper, it’s these last two ingredients that so many places get wrong, but not here. You should order this with confidence.

The green papaya was refreshing, but I was in desperate need of comfort food (as you can probably imagine), so I abandoned experimentation and got the exact same Emerald Curry with Chicken ($12.95) I got in March, and thankfully, it was the exact same preparation and quality – I really, really wanted consistency on this night, and I got it. Eaten from a mixing bowl, it didn’t really “go” with the papaya salad, but on its own was just perfect. Perfect. This dish may not excite adventurous gastronauts, but the flawless execution of this fairly simple dish was just what I needed on this evening.

When there are so many other restaurants in the area, the fact that I instinctively called Thai Noy after such a brutal day says something to me, and it says that Thai Noy is a true neighborhood restaurant.

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