Question: If you walked into the restroom at a restaurant and saw a used bath towel hanging on the rack and a toothbrush sitting on the side of the sink, would you feel comfortable taking part in the meal being placed before you?
What if on your way back from the bathroom you passed by the doorway to a residential kitchen with a cot in the corner and boxes on the floor? And when you went to sit down, you realized you were sitting in what should be a living room (but instead is a four-table dining room) on what more closely resembles a computer chair than a dining-room chair?
When I was in St. Maarten, my friend told me stories about time he spent in Buenos Aires, when he discovered restaurants that put a new meaning to the word “authentic.” He described a setting where you were essentially a guest at the family’s dinner table – they would set up a couple tables throughout the house and serve you whatever they decided to make that day.
Well, no need to apply for your passport – I found one such establishment in our Nation’s Capital this weekend (and I’m sure you can find one near you).
Shady, sketch, and strange are all words I could see someone wanting to use to describe Thai X-ing based on appearance alone – look no further than the fact that it’s in the middle of a residential neighborhood with a makeshift sign (see photo below). When we stepped out of the cab on St. Patrick’s Day, there were people on the next staircase over wearing bright green, drinking beer, and smoking cigarettes. They had drank a bit too much and were being loud. They weren’t waiting for a table – they are the neighbors.
We learned in kindergarten not to judge a book by its cover – something I recommend you not forget. We settled into a table on the third floor right by the window, and we barely had time to open our wine (BYOB, no corking fee) before the first round of food was brought to the table.
The waiter was wearing a wife beater with a black apron, his arms bear. Interesting choice – rarely am I better dressed than anyone, let alone a waiter – but he was very friendly and I had no complaints about his persona. He brought us all the food, one round after another, eventually filling up our table with more plates than our party of five could consume.
There is no menu and what’s served is always changing. My experience and follow-up research has revealed a few common, reappearing dishes: Pork-stuffed cucumber soup with cilantro and ginger, spicy fishcake, pumpkin curry, drunken noodles, and sticky rice with coconut milk and mango for dessert. Beef, lamb, chicken, and additional fish dishes have all been reported (we had beef as an entree and a chicken/lamb salad for an appetizer).
For a rate of $40/person (price depends on day and party size), I left feeling like I wanted to lay down. Dishes were served family style in large portions, and I easily overate, the will of my taste buds and eyes stronger than that of my brain. I had read that some people were disappointed with the amount of food – they felt it wasn’t enough. This was not the case for me: It was almost ten o’clock on St. Patrick’s Day, and the last thing I wanted was to put beer in my belly.
I’d say that’s when you know you’re truly full, and I highly encourage you to search your town for a similar place (even if it’s not Thai food). The experience of dining in such an irregular environment (from what we’re used to here in America) was part of the fun – even if the food had been so-so, I would have still appreciated the dash of culture I received that night, the informal atmosphere a welcome change of pace.
For reservations, location, and pricing, visit the Thai X-ing website.