14 April 2008

Restaurant Review: Thai Square

Since Thai Square, in Arlington, was listed in the "Dirt Cheap Eats 2007" by Washingtonian magazine and the restaurant's web-site sported a quote from Phyllis Richmond, we thought we'd experience dinner there Friday.

Ambiance: 10/30. This place is Small with a capital S and very popular. The double set of doors you see in the picture are the full foyer. They don't take reservations. So, people pack into the small dining room, hovering awkwardly over diners, because it's either that or wait in one of the three seats by the bathroom (yeah, that's right). The bathroom-adjacent seats mean you're "on deck". From the time we arrived to the time we left, the wait-staff was in constant blur, the restaurant was full, and there were always more people waiting. It's unnerving to be standing over diners. It's more unnerving to be dining and stood over by others. We were lucky--the table that we just happened to get was by the window (under the open sign in the picture) so we were somewhat protected but next to us was a window onto the foyer so we always had a view of waiting people and they of us, even if they weren't actually breathing down our necks.

Service: Fast, efficient, pleasant in a non-frills way. They also offered us drinks while we were "on deck". We took them, feeling a bit strange to be drinking as people squeezed by us to get to the restroom. 20/30.

Food: Tasty, attractive and interesting options. I had the Salted Fish Sauteed with Chinese Broccoli which is better described as Chinese Broccoli Sauteed with Tiny Bits of Salted Fish. Hubby had the Potpourri Shrimp with Bean Threads, a clay pot meal with huge shrimp, bean thread and shiitake mushrooms. Both were good but neither was so good as to make us forget about all the Thai restaurants between us and Arlington. 22/30.

Vegetarian Options: More than half a dozen actually vegetarian options. Plus, the occasional veg appetizer, too (we had the fried tofu-yummy!). 26/30.

Cost: Washingtonian wasn't kidding. The two entrees we had were $9.50 and $12.95, respectively. For the DC metro area, this is a phenomenal bargain and explains why people are constantly queuing up. 28/30.

Bonus: They have free valet parking in a high-traffic, hard-to-park area. Although it's a bit disconcerting because they take your keys and they don't give you a ticket. Happily, we got our car back. :) +4 points.

Overall: 22/30. A good meal at a great price but the hover approach was enough to put me off. I'll go to Thai Old Town and be a whole lot happier.

Arlington tangent: I often feel crowded in Arlington. When we were evaluating places to live we looked at homes in Arlington and found that they were crowded and pricey. Inside, the places were nice but outside you were on top of your neighbors and they you. I guess that's what happens in areas where land is at such a premium.

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