Packed into the same square block as Lost Dog and Stray Cat Cafés, and right across from the original Lebanese Taverna, Thai Noy completes the restaurant quarter in Arlington’s Westover neighborhood – and lives up to its neighbors’ performances.
Like them, Thai Noy packs a delicious, inexpensive meal into a tight space that exudes cultural and culinary authenticity; it must be an issue of pride among the Westover establishments, or at least it should be.
Thai Noy’s small space, visually stunning Thai paintings, which cover every available cranny in the dining room, and antique Buddhas make for a perfect romantic atmosphere. The evening’s tables are furnished with orchids and tea candles that illuminate the exotic space. On warmer nights patrons can mingle on Thai Noy’s outdoor patio, an exclusive feature among the neighborhood establishments.
Thailand’s traditional artwork is easily entrancing, and the woodwork façade above the bar area to the rear of the dining room augments a feeling of being elsewhere. Add in the TV tucked in the far corner behind the bar/cashier’s counter playing the night’s big football game against the hushed dining room, and well, it only makes the experience more endearing.
Thai cuisine reaches far in all directions to satisfy different tastes, and it’s especially friendly to vegetarians and cultivators of curry dishes. For starters, I ordered the fried bean curd served with sweet and sour sauce ($6.95); I would have said I had sampled it if it weren’t for the very generous portions of lightly fried bean curd that came to the table – enough to satisfy a devout Atkins disciple. Crushed peanuts garnished the sweet and sour sauce, and produced a delightful medley of flavors, a twist of sweet tang and savory.
As a vegetarian, my reviews cannot reflect the true diversity of a restaurant’s fare, and with the quality of sauces and preparation in Thai Noy’s dishes, it’s a true disservice to this establishment. All of the appetizers seemed like elegant complements to the main meal, much like the bean curd. Try an establishment favorite, the fresh spring roll ($5.95), which combines shrimp with a mix of fresh, crisp vegetables with fragrant mint in two thinly rolled slices of rice paper. The sweet and sour peanut sauce also accompanies the rolls.
The main dish, a spicy vegetable curry ($12.95), used a bold, balanced and distinctly peanut-flavored red curry sauce with a mix of vegetables and mushrooms. The large dish, following the hearty portions of bean curd, satiated two diners, yet left room for dessert.
Thai Noy’s sumptuous entrees fill several pages in its menu, yet it takes a sliver of the back leaf to cover the restaurant’s modest dessert choices – sticky rice with mango ($4.95), a classic, reliable Thai favorite, or ice cream, with two flavors to tempt the sweet tooth, ginger or coconut.
Desiring a kick to the meal’s end, I went with the ginger ice cream, which promptly arrived at the table with little fanfare: a simple dish with a good serving of soft, white ice cream decorated by blueberries and a sliced strawberry. To say the ice cream was soft might be a tad understated – the ice cream more resembled a sherbet or sorbet, so flaky and light – with bits of ginger throughout creatinhg a delectable nuance of warmth on the tongue. The dessert rounded out a fantastic meal at an affordable dinner price.
There’s no question Westover is a neighborhood trove of gustatory gems.
5880 N. Washington Blvd.
Open Monday, 11:30 a.m. – 3 p.m., 5 – 9:30 p.m.; Tuesday – Thursday, till 10 p.m.
Friday, 11:30 a.m. – 3 p.m., 5 – 10:30 p.m.; Saturday, opens at noon; Sunday, dinner only, 5 – 9 p.m.