Thai Square Restaurant, billing itself as a spot for authentic Thai cuisine, is one of several Thai food spots lining Columbia Pike. The restaurant might go unnoticed by passersby, since it occupies a small storefront along the street only distinguished by a worn red awning bearing its name. Inside, the decor doesn’t overwhelm. Nondescript tables and chairs, as well as some plants, fill the tiny space, its walls decorated with muted blocks of color. The plates, bowls and silverware are basic. The menu, while expansive, features expected Thai fare – curries, pad Thai, all the favorites. Little leaves an impression – that is, until the first delicious bite. And if frill-free dining means a greater emphasis on the food, then so be it, because flashy signs and a chic atmosphere generally don’t keep diners coming back for more.
Several soups and appetizers can start the meal; at about 30 dishes strong, there is no shortage of variety. Appetizers are divided into cold and hot categories. Chief among the cold selections are various seafood salads, and among the hot, fried Asian fare classics. The Pla Plamuk ($9.50) serves up pieces of scored squid, bits of white in a flurry of colors with bright-red sauce, green herbs and red (well, purple) onion slices. All are mixed with pieces of lettuce; the chewy squid mingles with the crunchy vegetables in a sauce made spicy with chili pepper and tangy with lime juice. An order of Crispy Spring Roll ($3.75) brings three of the stout rolls to the table accompanied by a sweet and sour sauce. Bits of bean thread wriggle free of the delightfully crispy roll with each bite, a savory filling blended with mushroom and carrot.
Entrees are divided by protein (beef, poultry, pork and seafood). Curries and noodle and rice dishes, which can be made with the diner’s choice of meat, and vegetarian dishes make up menu categories, as well. Seven sections in all, with about a half dozen dishes in each, contain enough dishes so diners should be able to find something to enjoy, but selection can be daunting in the face of so many options.
A stand-out dish is the Crispy Honey Roasted Duck with Basil ($14.95). It’s at the high end of the still reasonably-priced entree menu, which ranges from $9.95 chicken stir-fry dishes to this basil-seasoned dish. The dish serves pieces of duck in a remarkably crispy coating. While the fried-batter shell might be ample in proportion to the bits of meat it conceals, it makes no negative impact on the flavor, and the texture is marvelous. The fried pieces glisten with a slight coating of sauce, and the result is a slightly sweet, nicely spicy, and excellently crunchy creation.
Among the curries the entree menu offers is the Red Curry ($11.50). Available with chicken or beef, the dish is fragrant with the smell of basil and creamy with coconut milk. The curry includes only the meat, strips of bamboo shoot, and slices of half-seeded peppers, thus relying on the flavorful blend of sweet coconut milk and curry spices.
Take-out and delivery options mean customers can have their meal away from Thai Square’s spartan accommodations, but wherever the meal be enjoyed, the lasting impression will be one of quality cuisine.
Thai Square Restaurant is located at 3217 Columbia Pike, Arlington. For more information, call 703-685-7040 or visit thaisquarerestaurant.com. Restaurant hours are Monday – Thursday: 11:30 a.m. – 10 p.m.; Friday: 11:30 a.m. – 11 p.m.; Saturday: Noon – 11 p.m. and Sunday: Noon – 10 p.m.