Finally got to experience Ruan Thai for myself recently, and I have to say I was completely thrilled. Special thanks to Rebecca and Dinwiddie for recommending the two dishes I had. Without Chowhound, I would never have experienced this gem.
Eggplant appetizer, yum ma keau, was served warm with deeply smoky eggplant. The kind of dish that starts off good and keeps on getting better until you're sad to see it end.
Then I had the tofu with peppers and basil leaves, tofu phrik pao. I am impressed. Loved this more than the eggplant, which I thought couldn't be topped. Sure, this is a dish you see often in Thai places, but done so well with the crisp edged basil leaves really coming through the heat and sweetness.
I'm used to the very good selection of Thai we have in Northern Virginia, where it is hard to find a bad meal. On the other hand, I still can't pinpoint one place that stands out from the rest. My meal at Ruan Thai stood out.