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Fearless Critic restaurant review
DC
Food
Feel
Price
7.5
4.5
$35
Thai
Casual restaurant

Hours
Mon–Thu 11:30am–10:30pm
Fri 11:30am–11:00pm
Sat noon–11:00pm
Sun noon–10:30pm

Features Delivery
Bar Beer, wine
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Accepted

Website

Arlington, VA
3217 Columbia Pike
Arlington, VA
(703) 685-7040
Thai Square
Join the native Thai crowd to enjoy this fiery, diverse, sometimes authentic menu

These days it’s all too easy to find mediocre Thai-Chinese-American food in the kind of restaurant that serves sugared versions of pad Thai and peanut-sauced satay to the timid and gullible. Those kinds of things certainly have their place (drunk, starving), but Thai Square is one of the few places around DC that goes beyond that level.

That’s not to say it’s not also playing a secondary role as a bad Chinese-American restaurant, like almost every Thai place in the greater DC area seems to feel the need to do; as such, Thai Square’s menu includes steamed dumplings with soy sauce, pork fried rice, chicken with garlic sauce, beef with broccoli, shrimp with baby corn, and “sweet and sour assorted seafood.”

But if you navigate your way around such wastes of calories, you can have a good meal here, beginning with a fragrant, herby pig’s knuckle stew. Pad ped pla dook (catfish sautéed with chili and Thai eggplant) is spicy and complex, as is the crispy whole flounder in a pork-and-ginger sauce whose balance far outstrips the standard sweet-chili sugar-fest that’s overrepresented in Thai-American fried-fish dishes. The green chilies dotting a dish of crispy squid with basil add a refreshing dose of heat. Spicy roast-duck salad, nam sod (minced-pork and pork-skin salad), and yum pla krob (a limey salad of shredded tilefish) are unusually authentic options, as is the simple kai yang (grilled, marinated half-chicken with sticky rice). We encourage you to ask for everything “Thai hot,” but you must do so at your own risk—the natives of that country tend to have palates of steel.

Some other dishes aren’t exactly authentic Thai, but they’re not the standard Thai-American or Chinese, either; hot-pot dishes, noodle soup with fish ball and minced pork, and salt fish sautéed with Chinese broccoli evoke, you might say, the sort of more authentic Chinese food you’d expect to find in Thailand, which does have a significant Chinese immigrant population (including a major Chinatown in Bangkok).

Don’t be distracted by the somewhat dingy surroundings, highlighted rather than camouflaged by the fading tourism posters on the walls. The atmosphere here is familial and friendly, and the homey feel is bolstered by the low prices. Nothing on the menu is more than $14, and generous portions are amenable to our preferred strategy of delving into the unfamiliar, sharing among our friends, and taking home the leftovers.

So while we’re not claiming that little-known restaurants without the trappings of fine dining are always better and more authentic, in this case the faded awning and clattering interior just happen to be reliable indicators.

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