Arts & Entertainment

Sawatdee’s Laid Back Thai Eatery is Tops in Courthouse

Sawatdee is barely visible from Clarendon Boulevard, where it resides, but it is one of the best restaurants in the Courthouse neighborhood where it’s located.

Although the storefront isn’t much to look at, which is a result of it being in the gray strip mall-esque shopping center that also houses an AMC Theater and a FedEx Office Print & Ship Center, the interior is beautifully decorated. My favorite feature of the lush dining room is the booths, which are among the comfiest I’ve ever sat on. Sawatdee isn’t the only non-franchise restaurant in the shopping center, but it’s definitely my favorite in the area, probably because it’s a Thai restaurant and that’s one of my favorite types of cuisine.

Sawatdee has a large menu, but it’s organized and digestible, so diners most likely won’t be intimidated by the restaurant’s many selections. As with most Southeast Asian restaurants, there is a healthy selection of vegetarian and vegan options, with such options on each of the menu’s sections. The appetizers menu has three vegetarian options, two of which I have seen at several other Thai restaurants – Spring Rolls ($5) and Tofu-Tod ($6) and one I have never seen at a Thai restaurant – Sesame Green Beans ($6).

The Sesame Green Beans at Sawatdee is the menu item that I like most from what I’ve had at the restaurant. They are deep fried green beans served with a sesame soy sauce and beat out every other similar dish I’ve had, regardless of cuisine (that’s aimed at you, T.G.I. Friday’s). Both times I’ve had the dish the green beans were fried just enough to be crispy, but not enough to ruin the flavor of the breading, the green beans were fresh and the sauce is a amazing. It’s sweet with a touch of saltiness, which is a perfect addition to the deep fried green beans, which aren’t extremely flavorful.

Out of the “Chef Recommended” section of Sawatdee’s menu, there aren’t any vegan/vegetarian items outright, but there are options to substitute tofu or vegetables in most of the dishes. The Angel Eggplant ($14), which is deep fried eggplant topped with juicy stir fried ground chicken, bell peppers, carrots and spicy basil sauce, is my favorite with fried tofu instead of the chicken. It’s spicy and earthy with the bell peppers and carrots giving the dish a light feel.

The Ga-Pow is one of 12 dishes on the entree portion of the menu, and one of six that can be made with either vegetables or tofu instead of meat. It comes with the diner’s choice of meat sauteed with chili peppers, bell peppers, garlic and fresh basil leaves in a spicy basil sauce. One thing that’s not in the menu’s description of the Ga-Pow is that the dish comes with plenty of jalapenos. The dish is spicy, but it’s little more than that. It’s decent, but it’s much less flavorful than similar dishes I’ve had at other Thai restaurants.

The curry dishes at Sawatdee are wonderful. The curry dishes aren’t as lumpy or thick as curry dishes at other Thai restaurants in the area, which actually works in this case. The Red Curry, which has the same pricing per the diner’s choice of meat/non-meat, is delicious. The diner’s choice of meat comes with red curry paste that’s cooked with coconut milk, bamboo shoots, Thai eggplants and sweet basil leaves.

Finally, the Drunken Noodle at Sawatdee, which has the same pricing per the diner’s choice of meat/non-meat, is probably my second favorite in the area to Rincome in South Arlington. Sawatdee is a wonderful date spot, has a great patio for outdoor dining now that the sun is out and has an attentive wait staff. I definitely recommend the spot, especially to fans of Southeast Asian cuisine.

Sawatdee | 2250 Clarendon Blvd. | Arlington | 703-243-8181 | sawatdee.net