Thai Noy, Arlington, VA

(See the July 11, 2011 Review here.)

In 2006, Rebecca Roberts hosted an hour-long radio show at WETA in Shirlington called “The Intersection.” On one of the episodes, she interviewed Tony Bourdain for the first half, and me for the second half – I was discussing “neighborhood restaurants.” (I have the hour-long program saved on a CD somewhere, and will be happy to upload it in case anyone wants to listen – WETA has since switched to an all-classical format (plus, I was their restaurant blogger, earning all of $40 a week for my time), so I can’t imagine they’d care). I remember one question I stumbled on was when Rebecca asked me to name one restaurant that I thought typified what a neighborhood restaurant is – one really good example. My mind raced like a slot machine, thinking about all the neighborhoods around DC, before finally settling down and coming back to my own. When that happened, I thought of it in about two seconds: “Thai Noy,” I said.

For all the times I’ve lauded Thai Noy over the years, it is *amazing* that it doesn’t have its own thread on I remember the summer of 2011, when I drove four teenage kids 600 miles back from Indianapolis, only to get tantalizingly close to home on I-70, and to find out that my main artery back to Arlington, I-270, had been *shut down* north of Germantown. I cut down U.S. Route 15 through Point of Rocks, only to run into a particularly nasty thunderstorm, struggling to even see, then eventually dropping off the four kids (which itself took an extra hour), limping into my house, pouring myself a gin and tonic, and collapsing onto the couch after about the 12th hour. When I laid there, unperturbed, for about 30 minutes, and began gaining my strength back, I knew I was too tired to go out anywhere, and it was pushing 9 PM. I wanted comfort food, and so I called Thai Noy for carryout.

For two different reasons, I didn’t want to go out on Tuesday and Wednesday nights of this week, and was also craving comfort food both evenings. On Tuesday I was exceedingly sleep-deprived, and on Wednesday, I was upset over losing one of our members. And so I had back-to-back carryout dinners at Thai Noy.

Tuesday evening, I ordered two of my stalwarts:

Emerald Curry with Chicken ($14.00) – Sauteed, sliced chicken in spicy [not that spicy] green curry sauce with green veggies, purple Thai eggplant, and fresh basil.

Keng Ped Yang, ($18.95) – Boneless, roasted duck cooked in red curry and coconut milk, pineapple, tomatoes, basil, and green and red peppers.

Both dishes were just as they are at least 80% of the times I’m here: very good to excellent. Thai Noy will rarely leaving you shaking your head in awe, but it will come through as “very good to excellent” nearly every time. The prices are high, but the portions are quite large, and they don’t skimp on proteins. No MSG is added to any of the dishes because they don’t need it.

A couple other dishes I regularly get here are Eggplant Basil or Tofu Basil (both vegan, and both satisfying), and Beef Penang. I’ve also been known to get Tom Yum Gai, an order of steamed rice, and when I get home, I dump the rice into a bowl, and pour the Tom Yum Gai on top of it. The starch in the rice thickens the broth and makes for a very satisfying, hearty bowl of soup. The papaya salad here is spicier than the norm, and is very good with the Keng Ped Yang.

I walked in to pick up my order on Tuesday night, and the gentleman (the owner?) working the register recognized me, saying, “You come in here regularly, don’t you.” I replied, “Yes, I’ve been here about 30 times before.” He then added, “Yeah, I recognize you because you get a lot of the same dishes.” Well, I guess that’s the comfort food aspect, but it got me thinking, why not expand my horizons the next time I order? So the next night, I did it again, and got two dishes I’ve never gotten before:

Shrimp Chu Chee, ($16.95) – Sauteed shrimp in chu chee curry paste, coconut milk, served on steamed vegetables.

Wild Boar Basil ($14.95) – Pork loin stir-fried with mushrooms, bamboo shoots, eggplant, green peppercorns, in a Thai spicy sauce.

And both dishes were as good as my usual go-tos, the shrimp in particular having an extremely generous amount of shrimp in the dish.

Sandwiched between Lost Dog Cafe and Lebanese Taverna, it’s easy to see why Thai Noy gets forgotten, but it shouldn’t. It’s a lovely, reliable neighborhood Thai restaurant, and may just be the single restaurant where I’ve eaten the most number of times during the past year or so. Always good, sometimes excellent, almost never anything more than that. It defines what a “neighborhood restaurant” is and should be. Try it sometime – you’ll thank me!

I should add that I’m initializing Thai Noy in Italic, and ranking it #2 in the North Arlington section of the Dining Guide (which doesn’t include neighborhoods such as Ballston, Clarendon, Courthouse, or Rosslyn), right behind Layalina, and I could just as easily flip these two around and have Thai Noy ranked #1.

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