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Thai Chowlunch: Rabieng Report

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Thai Chowlunch: Rabieng Report

PollyG | Feb 21, 2005 02:20 PM

8 intrepid Chowhounds braved rumored blizzard conditions to carry on with our Thai challenge this afternoon.***

This was stop # 2 in our quest to identify the best Thai restaurant in the area. Our prior stop, a few weeks ago, was Thai Square. There we set a standard for quality that is going to be hard to match.

Our experience at Rabieng was mixed. A number of dishes were quite good, a few of them less so. Rabieng specializes in regional Thai cuisine and street food. On weekends, they have a street food brunch. The menu has commentary about dishes typical of different regions.

For appetizers we had:

Chili cashews: These were a definite favorite. The chili and chopped scallions contrasted beautifully with the sweetness and oil of the cashews.

Pork satay: The chowpup says these were better than the chicken satay at Thai Square. Considering she ate about 6 sticks of the satay at Thai Square, this was high praise. I didn't try the satay-comments, anyone?

Chicken Larb: This was a competent rendition of this ubiquitous dish, not a standout. It was moderately hot.

Country beef: We had the pork version of this dish at Thai Square. I believe this one was universally enjoyed; the beef had a lot of flavor without being horribly salty. It makes regular beef jerky taste like a salt lick.

Esan Sausage: This was a flavorful sausage that did not seem terribly fatty. Everyone enjoyed this dish, too.

Papaya Salad: This was a vinegary mix of green papaya threads and carrot threads.

For main courses:

Wild Boar: This dish had green peppercorns, tiny chunks of Thai eggplant, and lots of chewy pork/boar slices. The sauce was pleasantly spicy.

Satoh Shrimp: This dish was shrimp in a savory sauce that included satoh beans, which are a Thai broadbean with a fairly mild flavor, a bit like favas in appearance.

Panang beef: My spouse dubbed this Thai pot roast. The beef was in very thick, large chunks in a classic red panang curry.

Tepo: Another regional specialty, this was pork in a coconut-based sauce with watercress and kaffir lime. Very tasty, with a bit of sweetness.

Pad Thai: We had agreed at the outset of this series to try the pad Thai everywhere; it is what the timid order and it is a very common street-food dish. I found it very sweet, but others thought it was still less sweet than the average Pad Thai. It included a generous number of shrimp.

Bhram: This is a signature dish at both Rabieng and Duangrat's and it was a real disappointment. It tasted a lot like tender chicken smothered in satay sauce and topped with fried shallots. I don't remember it being oversauced in prior visits. I heard some comments from the far end of the table about this dish seeming over Americanized.

Basil Calamari: The tentacles were tiny, but the dish was a serious second best to the similar dish at Thai Square.

We really wanted to try the Esan chicken, but they were out of it. This would have been a roast chicken served with sticky rice; you eat the sticky rice with your fingers and use it to scoop up the meat.

For dessert we had:

Disappointment. They were out of mango with sticky rice! Actually, I'd rather that they be out than that they serve an underripe mango, which is what I've had at other restaurants on occasion.

Rabieng is a pretty space. It is less opulent than its sibling Duangrat's, but it would still be dressy enough to not scare off anyone new to Thai cuisine. There are watercolors of scenes from the streets of Thailand on the walls, a fairly fresh paint job, and the support columns have a gold pattern carefully hand stamped onto them.

The obligatory bathroom note: The women's room was small but clean, with wallpaper in good repair. It is astonishing how often a nice looking restaurant has a bathroom that is downright scary!

The total was $19 each, including tip. Most of us indulged in a Thai iced coffee or tea.

***Note for people reading this post in the future; there was no snow whatsoever. Early weather forecasts suggested that we would have had snowfall Sunday night and had cast a stormcloud of doubt over the feasibility of this chow gathering in an area notorious for its ability to fall into panic at the sign of a few snow flurries.

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