For an authentic Thai dinner, T.H.A.I. in Shirlington hits the spot. Nestled in the middle of Arlington’s Village at Shirlington, it is extremely identifiable by its bright yellow awning. T.H.A.I., an acronym standing for “Tasty Thai Cuisine, Hospitality and Warmth, Architectural Elegance, Innovative Seasonal Menus,” mixes those ingredients well to create a successful recipe for their restaurant.
When it comes to their menu, T.H.A.I. features an extensive variety of items. Their Crispy Spring Rolls ($4.95), veggie rolls served with a sweet carrot sauce, are served extremely hot and are an excellent start to a meal. Other appetizers include skewered and grilled Satay Chicken ($6.25) and Smoked Duck Wontons ($6.95).
Pad Thai ($12.95) is a staple at all Thai restaurants, and T.H.A.I. lives up to that tradition. The thin, stir-fried noodles are served with tofu, crushed peanuts, bean sprouts, scallions and egg, and diners may choose to add either shrimp or chicken to the dish. Their Panang Perfect ($11.95), chicken in a coconut milk and basil curry — another of their best dishes, lives up to its ambitious billing, particularly when the white sticky rice absorbs the red-orange sauce.
Because of the extensive menu at T.H.A.I., it is best to order multiple dishes and share. Everyone will surely find at least a few things to their liking because of the variety of menu options. Vegetarians benefit from a dozen tofu and vegetable-based dishes, while meat lovers have their pick of chicken, beef, pork and seafood entrees.
T.H.A.I. is famed for their Big Bowl Lunch Specials, which feature many of their noodle dishes at a lunch-sized portion and price. Among these are Noodle Soups, Stir-Fried Noodles and Rice Big Bowls. One of the best of these is Drunken Noodles ($5.95-7.95 for lunch depending on the addition of tofu, chicken, beef or pork), rice noodles and sweet basil leaves in a chili and garlic sauce. Be careful with Drunken Noodles — they are extremely spicy, as denoted by three chili peppers on the menu. Even more dangerous with this dish though, is how quickly you’ll become attached to it — one diner has told me it would be her last meal ever if given the choice.
The staff at T.H.A.I. is helpful and friendly. They are knowledgeable about the menu and are willing to answer questions to help Thai food rookies — and veterans — in their selections. Further, they are attentive and quick in taking orders and bringing food.
The simple décor of T.H.A.I. in Shirlington is very welcoming. Large windows in the front of the restaurant allow for sunlight to stream into the dimly-lit restaurant, and unique lantern-style lamps are spaced every few feet along the walls. Though it doesn’t seem it when first walking in, T.H.A.I. stretches back to host dozens of tables. There are additional tables outside during the warmer months.
Along with its more traditional fare, T.H.A.I. in Shirlington does feature what they deem “Not Your Ordinary Thai.” Though a few dollars more expensive than the “ordinary” entrees, these more innovative dishes incorporate Thai spices and styles of cooking into more traditionally American proteins. For example, the Grilled Five-Spice NY Steak ($19.95) is served with a chili-garlic-basil sauce, asparagus, green beans, baby carrots, soy spinach, fried potatoes and jasmine rise. Similarly, the Grilled Seafood Curry ($19.95) features grilled shrimp and sea scallops with yellow curry sauce, Asian mango salsa, black sticky rice and, again, fried potatoes. Definitely not your ordinary Thai dinner.
By mastering the four main tenets of their lengthy acronym, T.H.A.I. in Shirlington has perfected their recipe for a delicious, authentic Thai meal.
T.H.A.I. in Shirlington
4029 Campbell Ave.
Arlington, VA 22206
Hours: Sun. – Thurs. 11:30 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Fri. – Sat. 11:30 a.m. – 11 p.m.