If you’re spending an evening in Old Town Alexandria this summer, be sure to stroll by Mai Thai to appease your appetite. The restaurant takes traditional Thai cuisine and serves it up with a trendy style, both in the atmosphere of the place and the presentation of the dishes.
The place was packed on a Saturday night, with customers filling both floors as well as the street side patio. If you sit on the second floor, you’ll have a view of the Potomac through the wall-sized back windows that help to open up the room.
The orange curtains and murals have dark, soothing tones that made for a relaxing atmosphere, despite the crowds. It differs from the restaurant's D.C. location near Dupont Circle (1200 19th St. NW, D.C.), which has a more sleek, techno interior, characteristic of stylish city restaurants. In contrast, when you enter the restaurant in Alexandria, you’ll be welcomed by a large spiral-shaped centerpiece with a dragon that hangs just over the bar.
Speaking of drinks, this is a great place to try their selection of colorful, tropical beverages. Each sweet, colorful drink comes with an orange wedge and an umbrella ― you might as well be on vacation. The Mai Thai ($6.95), where the restaurant gets its name, is a favorite. While sweet, it's equally strong, so sip slowly. For something non-alcoholic, the Virgin Daiquiri ($4.95) comes in strawberry, lemon and mango.
For starters, the Crab-Shrimp Spring Rolls ($5.95) are a must. Browned to perfection, the three long, skinny rolls are daintily placed on a square plate and come with a tasty red dipping sauce. For something a littler spicier, try the Seafood Lemongrass ($7.95). The two grilled skewers include shrimp, scallop and squid, as well as cherry tomato and pineapple. The dish is topped with red and spring onions, scallions and ginger, which add a spicy citrus tang that’s not too overbearing.
The Chicken Satay ($5.95) comes as four skewers and can be ordered as an entrée at Mai Thai’s D.C. location. Hearty, yet sweet, the peanut sauce really makes the dish. For lighter fare, taste the Cucumber Soup ($3.95) with tofu and mushrooms. The soup is both salty and sweet in a way that’s pleasingly flavored.
For entrées, the Pad Thai ($9.95, $12.95 with shrimp) is a safe favorite. The fresh, crunchy bean sprouts and strands of scallions add texture to the sweet mix of chicken, rice noodles and peanuts. Panang Curry, ($11.95, $14.95 with seafood) which is cooked in a creamy red peanut sauce, is also worth a taste.
The Ka Pow ($10.95, $14.95 with seafood) comes with a choice of beef, chicken, pork or seafood. While it is one of the spicier dishes on the menu, it’s not potent enough to make your eyes water. However, keep a glass of water at hand (something the waiters are prompt at refilling). The beef is especially bold in flavor and is delightfully complemented with a mix of peppers, basil leaves and garlic.
If you have a sweet tooth, order the Sweet Melody ($14.95), a house specialty. The shrimp and pork dish comes in a sweet and sour sauce and is mixed with fresh pineapple, cucumber, tomato and onions.
Despite the busy evening, service was both prompt and efficient ― it took no more than 15 minutes to get a table. Mai Thai is a fun, hip place that is very appropriate for the summer. With its light dishes that range from sweet to spicy, tropical drinks and outdoor seating, it's definitely worth the trip.
6 King Street
Alexandria, Va. 22314
Hours: Mon. – Thurs.: 11:15 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.
Fri. – Sat.: 11:15 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Sun.: 11:30 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.