Thip Khao

I had dinner at Thip Khao with my girlfriends Katie and Kathy on 3-18-2017. It’s one of their favorite restaurants and it’s easy to see why: it’s low key, not terribly expensive and quite good, plus the staff is super friendly.

Atmosphere: 4 out of 5
Food & Drink: 4 out of 5

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Getting a reservation here was a a little tricky, not because they were booked but because it was hard to get a hold of anyone. They only take reservations over the phone and only between the hours of 12-4pm. I had to call four times to finally reach someone. However they’re ultra responsive on social media and tweeted back almost immediately.

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The space has a lot of light wood and soft light. Between those elements and the somewhat hard booth that lines the perimeter it reminded me a bit of Tail Up Goat inside. Surprisingly, this is also apparently a great place for large parties. The space is deceptively big, despite the cozy feel, and there were actually five such parties while we were there.

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The restaurant is named after the small straw baskets that hold the sticky rice typically eaten with Laotion food.

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Surprise! The sticky rice is purple!

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The rice is typically used to eat the food by hand, which the servers’ shirts depict  along with the caption, “Food tastes better when eaten with your hands.” The front of the menu also features a tutorial.

And with that background out of the way, onto the food itself.

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Front – Green Mango (chili-infused vodka, mango puree, gingambere, lime, basil). This was obviously spicy and the mango puree was a little thick. However the flavor was unique and pretty darn good. Once I diluted it a little with club soda I liked it even more.

Back left- Thap Thim (rye, pomegranate molasses, Averna, seltzer). This was  kind of like a whisky sour but very whisky-y. I didn’t love it but that’s mainly because I’m not a big whisky gal.

Back right- Tunnels and Rope (tequila, grapefruit, lime, angostura). This was AMAZING and probably my favorite part of the whole meal. Ingredients-wise it’s similar to a margarita but tasted like a carbonated limeade. I wanted to steal Katie’s so I’d definitely get this next time. .

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This was a little amuse-bouche of cucumber with Lao chili paste. It was spicy but good. I couldn’t eat all my paste though–lightweight!

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Naem Khao (crispy coconut rice, sour pork, lime, scallion, peanut, cilantro). These are actually lettuce wraps, which are always fun to build and eat. I could mainly taste the rice, peanut and cilantro, and the whole thing was kind of like comfort food.

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Goon Nam Paa (poached shrimp salad, chili-lime sauce, mint, red onion, cilantro, scallion). This was also really good. I liked the sauce  a lot, although it was a little salty. I wish there were more vinegar or lime to cut through it a bit.

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Muu Som (rice-cured sour pork belly, ginger, garlic, onion, bell pepper, hon shimeji, dried chili, kaffir lime, fried onion). This was good. The server warned me it would be a little oily due to the curing process and then being sauteed. It did kind of taste like an oily stir fry and, while the flavors weren’t super crazy interesting, the pork belly was really good.

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Gaeng Phet (red coconut curry, chicken, eggplant, green bean, bell pepper, thai basil, bamboo). This smelled out of control good. When it passed in front of me I exclaimed, “Oh my god does that smell good!” It definitely tasted good as well but the smell was just beyond.
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Knap (salmon grilled inside banana leaves, red curry, ginger, dill). This is what it looks like when it’s served.
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And this is what it looks like inside. You can definitely taste the dill, which I loved. The fish was good but I wasn’t as into the paste-like sauce on top–it was really salty and not that exciting. This was not bad by any means, but it didn’t knock my socks off.
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Khao Long (warm kabocha pumpkin custard, coconut sticky rice, salted coconut sauce, crispy mung bean). This was a little more vegetable-y than I expected and I guess that means it wasn’t that sweet. The texture had somewhat mixed reviews: I didn’t mind it, Katie hated it and Kathy described it as “Asian bread pudding” so I guess we all had very different experiences with this dessert.
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Overall I like how laid back the vibe was here. It wasn’t pretentious at all, the servers were friendly and the hostesses were SUPER nice. Despite eating three courses with drinks, the whole meal only took a little over an hour and was not expensive at all. While we had a reservation this time, I’ve been there in the past without one and not had a problem. There also aren’t excessive lines to wait in like some other hot Asian restaurants in D.C. *cough* Bad Saint *cough*.  While I didn’t really have a standout dish I left dreaming about, if you look at it from a hassle to deliciousness ratio, Thip Khao scores high.
Disclaimer: the picture above is actually at The Airedale immediately following dinner because I forgot to take a group shot at the table! Blogger fail.

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