Monday, September 14, 2009

Restaurant Review: Nava Thai, a spicy gem in the 'Burbs!

Generally when the DoeBunni and I go out for Dinner, we go to a place in DC proper not too far from our home in Columbia Heights. However, I have heard many stories about how much better ethnic foods like Chinese, Vietnamese and Thai are in the Va. and Md. Burbs. Friday night, we put on our pith helmets and ventured into the Md. wilds for Thai food. Nava Thai was the highest-ranked Thai place in the Washingtonian's top 100 restaurants list, so it seemed like a good place to check out.

Getting to the restaurant was not too hard, but we did overshoot the place just a bit. Nava Thai is located in a side street just off of one of the main Wheaton Thoroughfares- the sign for the restaurant is not lit up, so we did not see it at first. We entered the restaurant just before 9 on a Saturday night, so it was a little packed. Nava Thai's decor is warm and woodsy, with exposed wood beams on the ceiling, and happy reclining Buddha statues on mantles. We waited at the bar, and got a round of drinks right before we were seated.

The menu was filled with Thai favorites, and hot dishes are clearly marked with a 1 to 3 pepper heat system. I went a little overboard, ordering two appetizers and a soup to go along with our entrees.

We got the Appetizers and the soup first:
Spring Rolls: Three lightly fried spring rolls- good, but nothing spectacular about them. The dipping sauce was generic sweet and sour sauce (the bright red kind) which I skipped, but the Fish Sauce that Nava Thai supplies as a tableside compliment went great with them.
Hot and Sour Squid Salad: Awesome! Slices of squid cut so it takes a spiky tube quality when cooked, matched with onion, carrot, cabbage and a great spicy and tangy lime sauce- think Tom Yum soup in sauce form. We loved it!
Gulf of Siam soup: Another great dish- think Tom Yum with mixed seafood. There were mussels, shrimp, fish, squid, and unfortunately crab (crap) stick along with some good straw mushrooms. The broth was delicious and had a good spicy kick to it. Aside from the crab stick, a real gem.

The first course was great- but I was worried that I overreached with the second appetizer. My worries were well-founded, as the entrees came out just before we finished up the soup:
Hot and Sour Curry with Shrimp: This was DoeBunni's entree- a soupy curry of shrimp, green beans, cabbage and cauliflower. This two-pepper dish was tasty, but was seriously spicy! When we first ordered it, the waitress warned DoeBunni that it would be very spicy, and DoeBunni asked that it would be "Medium" level, which we both thought would be ok. Unfortunately, the spice hit her hard. Doebunni already dislikes eating rice with her dishes, so she really had nothing to cut the spice of the dish. She was in such a state that we ordered a soymilk to help cut the heat. It was the first time that I have had Thai soymilk, and dang, it is yucky- sweet, and with a palpable soy taste that is great in edamame, but not good with milk! Doebunni toughed it out and ate about half of her dish, the rest now maintains an ominous presence in our fridge at home! Don't get me wrong, the curry was spicy, but had great flavor- each bite had the malty-saltiness of fish sauce, and the shrimp were great with it.
Stir Fried Crispy Duck: My entree- slices of duck in a spicy brown sauce. Some good fire in the dish, I savored the flavors and made a point to avoid the slices of Thai Chili that were intersperced in the sauce. Midway through the pain of her dish, DoeBunni reached over and took a slice of chili with her chopsticks and prepared to bring it to her mouth. I quickly told her "thats not what you think it is," but she soldiered on. A short minute later, she was attacked by more spicy pain! Apparently she thought that when I said "thats not what you think it is," I meant that it was not a pepper. Obviously, I should have been more explicit in my warnings. So, the dish is great, but go easy on the Chilies if you can't take the heat!

So the meal was great! Nava Thai has some great food, and the spice is authentic- they do not water it down for the western palate. We will definitely go back, but we definitely have to watch how much we order, and stay away from the two-pepper dishes for now at least! Our first trek to the hinterlands was definitely a success!

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