Saturday, February 13, 2016

DC Spotlight: Dinner at Thip Khao

DC has so many new, hot restaurants that I can no longer keep up.  But I did manage to make it to Thip Khao, recently ranked one of the area's 100 Very Best Restaurants by Washingtonian Magazine.  

Thip Khao is located in Columbia Heights and serves Laotian food.  According to its website, Thip Khao is "the home of the Lao food movement in DC" (I didn't know there was such a movement!), and the cuisine is characterized by a "variety of spices, herbs, and vegetables ranging from lemongrass, to dill, and spicy hot peppers."  The website claims, correctly, that it's "deliciously funky in all the right ways."  In other words, your taste buds definitely will not be bored at this restaurant (it's like Thai food on steroids). 

The best thing about Thip Khao (besides the very reasonable prices) is the abundance of vegetarian options on the regular menu (vegetarians should avoid the special "jungle menu," which includes items like fried pig ears and alligator).  The regular menu clearly marks everything that is or can be made vegetarian (items without gluten and soy are also marked, for those with food sensitivities).  It was difficult to choose, so I settled on a little of everything.  

First up -- and perhaps my favorite dish -- was the crispy tofu appetizer (called chuenh tofu), which was served with a spicy house sauce and scallions.  The tofu was light and fluffy, and the flavors exploded on the tongue.

Chuenh Tofu (crispy tofu)

Next up was thomp sua, or spicy lemongrass soup -- and spicy it was!  The vegetarian version comes with tofu, chili paste, tamarind, lime, dried chili, red onion, and cilantro.  If you need to clear your sinuses, this dish is for you!

Thomp Sua (spicy lemongrass soup)

Finally, for my entree, I couldn't resist the mieng viengchanh, or DIY lettuce wraps.  Again I chose the tofu option, which came with rice noodles, peanuts, ginger, cucumber, pickled jicama, cherry tomatoes, radishes, and a side of pineapple-chili sauce (along with a basket of large leafed romaine lettuce to wrap it all up in).  Although it was a little messy to assemble, the combination of flavors was perfect.

Mieng Viengchanh (DIY tofu lettuce wraps)

I cannot wait to return to Thip Khao to try more dishes.  It is exciting to see such a delicious and unique restaurant thrive in Columbia Heights.  

TIP:  Call for reservations at least one week in advance.

Thip Khao Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato