Civilization comes to Washington, D.C.

by on July 26, 2015 at 12:32 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

Baan Thai at 1326 14th St. serves regional Thai cuisine, from four different parts of the country, the attached sushi restaurant serves as a talisman against the uninformed.  Get the tapioca chicken, the Isan sausage, and the Thai vermicelli in chili peanut sauce.  This is one of three or four local places with real Thai food, and thus one of the best dining spots in DC.  The Yelp reviews are nearly worthless, but here is useful WaPo coverage.

1 prognostication July 26, 2015 at 1:01 pm

Amen.

2 Google Translate July 26, 2015 at 1:02 pm

If you’re not TC, you might have a differing and/or worthless opinion.

3 ibaien July 26, 2015 at 1:23 pm

how is this not the equivalent of an American restaurant in Bangkok that serves lobster rolls, barbecue, fajitas, and hot dish? I always get anxious at multi-regional restaurants that I’m blithely combining mismatched dishes.

4 Adrian Ratnapala July 26, 2015 at 2:04 pm

I read TC’s paragraph as saying they are conciously and deliberately serving things from different regions. Which is probably better than doing it “blithely”.

Also regionalism depends on the country. Sri Lanka (admittedly a small country) has various different traditions, corresponding to a complicated history and mix of races. But everyone seems to cook everyone else’s specialities, so paying too much attention to one region will give a distorted view.

5 ibaien July 26, 2015 at 2:48 pm

oh, I was ascribing the blitheness to myself for not knowing how to read a menu like a local. I generally assume the kitchen is laughing at the farang when they see my ticket. I’d honestly like to see more set menus at inscrutably regional places, like they used to have at 50s Polynesian restaurants – it’d remove a lot of stress.

6 Adrian Ratnapala July 26, 2015 at 3:37 pm

Oh I see, I misread your comment. I guess I agree about set menus. If you are native or some other expert in a particular cuisine, then stereotypes about regions might be limiting. But for the common farang, it makes sense to just get the standard deal in authentic fashion.

7 prognostication July 26, 2015 at 3:20 pm

Yeah, my experience of Thailand, even in places where there were absolutely no other farang, was that trans-regional food was common, but more in the sense that there would be places that specialized in one region’s cuisine in another region.

8 yo July 26, 2015 at 1:41 pm

Now THIS is Koch propaganda!

9 dearieme July 26, 2015 at 3:09 pm

tapioca – boyhood bliss. Do they also do sago, and rice pudding?

10 harumpf22 July 26, 2015 at 3:26 pm

Thai food as the expression of Civilization? What preening Left wing, metro-sexual claptrap.
Try heading over to the National Gallery or the Smithsonian to get some glimmer af a notion of what “civilization” is about. You seem to know even less about it than you do real economics.

You should be forced to live in Thailand for a few years; might clear up your confusion. What drivel.

11 Anon. July 26, 2015 at 3:30 pm

lol

12 Reader July 26, 2015 at 7:14 pm

So what exactly does that make you, who apparently has nothing better to do with his time than read “drivel”?

13 Barkley Rosser July 26, 2015 at 4:46 pm

Tyler,

You say that Baan Thai is among three or four Thai restaurants in the area that are serving the real thing, but your link lists nine (or maybe only 8, none of them Baah Thai). So, which of those are the other 2 or 3 besides Baan Thai, please, the first ones?

harumpf22,

I can attest that Tyler is aware of the National Gallery et al as I have even seen him there, when I have not been posting all sorts of awful drivel on his blog, :-).

14 Tyler Cowen July 26, 2015 at 5:01 pm

Elephant Jumps, and one or two places in Wheaton are the only real alternatives, Thai X-ing I suspect still has its moments…

15 Barkley Rosser July 26, 2015 at 6:02 pm

Thanks, Tyler. On food matters, you are for sure a Serious Person, and your recs have never failed yet, :-).

16 John Thacker July 26, 2015 at 7:30 pm

But if I live in Maryland (close to R&R Taqueria), is there any reason for me to go to Baan Thai, when Thai Taste by Kob and Nava Thai in Wheaton are closer? I can vouch for those two, as can my raised in Bangkok wife.

17 honkie please July 26, 2015 at 5:47 pm

TC’s haughty refinement on ethnic cuisine makes me think of wine tasting in Napa. Not complaining, though…I find it entertaining.

18 ibaien July 26, 2015 at 6:26 pm

the difference being that tyler isn’t a bored suburban housewife from dallas guzzling gallons of indifferent cab sauv and proclaiming them all ‘delicious’ until she falls down. he’s put the time into his connoisseurship and, while i find much of his political philosophy wanting, i wouldn’t trust anyone else to do a better job of telling me where to eat in greater DC.

19 dearieme July 26, 2015 at 7:30 pm

I’ll grant you that Hellary falls down, but she’s not from Dallas.

20 honkie please July 26, 2015 at 11:44 pm

@ibaien: Right, but you know that isn’t the character he’d be playing. I more had in mind the staffers who can tell you with bored assurance every minute characteristic of each variety, until it comes to anything resembling a blind test.

Out of curiosity I checked Zagat for my hometown of Las Vegas, and as expected they still have Lotus of Siam as the pinnacle of Thai. Once the experts decide something it cannot be undecided, even though the place amounts to decent food served by adequate help in an eyesore of a space. I wouldn’t take anybody but a food expert (heh) there, or I’d be apologizing for the dump.

21 Turkey Vulture July 27, 2015 at 7:49 am

I propose that Tyler conduct a blind taste-test of equivalent dishes from the DC-area Thai places being discussed here.

22 Ray Lopez July 26, 2015 at 8:10 pm

Having lived in Thailand for a couple of years I’m hardly an expert, but “the tapioca chicken, the Isan sausage, and the Thai vermicelli in chili peanut sauce” are not really authentic Thai seems to me- never heard of any of these dishes. For example I know Isan is a region of NE Thailand but the best Thai sausage I had was by a German expat, who made his own and it was like eating cake, delicious.

I think (but can’t prove) that these dishes are like “American Chinese food” in that they cannot really be found in their purported home country, but are adapted for American audiences in mind. For one thing, they probably use a lot more meat than the ‘authentic’ dish would back home. In southeast Asia meat is expensive and usually not used much except during special occasions. Chunks of meat that melt in your mouth are, as another expat living in China now said in these comments, a Western ideal.

Also btw from TC’s food blog the best Thai in DC is run by a Greek chef as I recall reading. Maybe one of these is that one, not sure.

Sawadika!

23 Mona July 26, 2015 at 9:29 pm

I’m guessing the “Isan sausage” is actually the northern Chiang Mai-style sausage. But yes, never heard of the other two, in three years of living in Thailand.

24 carlospln July 27, 2015 at 11:07 am

Sounds like more feeble, sweetened ‘American Thai’ food, sans any sourness & chili so essential for balanced Thai cuisine.

Ray’s concise comment above nails it.

Believe Alex T. enjoyed the Southern Thai on offer at Home in Sydney a couple of years back

http://www.homethaisussex.com.au

And if one is looking for authentic Issan Thai, with its heat & fermented flavours, try House near Thainatown on Elizabeth Street: http://www.broadsheet.com.au/sydney/food-and-drink/directory/restaurant/house-thai

ทานให้อร่อย !

25 Barkley Rosser July 27, 2015 at 1:32 pm

carlospin,

Let us see, how many things are just pompously silly in this comment? First of all, what Alex T ate or did not eat in Sydney is totally irrelevant here. He is not the foodie of MR. Tyler Cowen is.

Second, it is almost certainly the case that one can more easily find authentic Thai food in Sydney or Melbourne than in Washington; I have certainly very good Thai food in OZ, although I cannot verify just how authentic it is. So what?

And most importantly, you are sneering at these restaurants in the Washington area that you have never eaten in because the “sound” like they are just they “sound like the more feeble, sweetened” American style? Actually, Tyler specifically said they are not, and much of the discussion has been about the strong tendency for the occasional authentic Thai restaurant that appears to drift into that boring form.

Are you completely out of it, just totally full of yourself (and authentic Australian/Thai food), or both?

26 carlospln July 27, 2015 at 3:14 pm

I genuflect before your greater Siamese dining knowledge & experience. 😉

27 Barkley Rosser July 27, 2015 at 4:50 pm

Note, c-spin, that I said I could not judge what is authentic Thai cuisine or not. I have never been there. I simply noted that if you have not eaten in the restaurants that Tyler praises here, you cannot say that they are not authentic.

As it is, I genuflect before your undoubtedly superior knowledge of Thai/Siamese cuisine to mine, :-).

28 carlospln July 27, 2015 at 6:37 pm

The Barc is worse than the Bite [Kidding!]

29 Los Ranchos July 26, 2015 at 8:22 pm

How much more Sophisticated and Cosmopolitan it is to cherish not just Thai food but Swedish crime fiction, Japanese gangster films and Eastern European erotica (otherwise known as German Doggy Porn). How much better even to have a theory that places a value premium on other’s xenophobia and the discount of unattractive women. When its not possible to do your job of analyzing the macro-economy, do a deep dive on the Lives Of Others. When you can’t contribute to that, pivot and observe. Take refuge in good, cheap food. OK by me.

30 Jan July 26, 2015 at 9:51 pm

I predict there are a lot of 25 year olds at this restaurant.

31 prior_approval July 27, 2015 at 12:48 pm

Just as long as there aren’t any attractive women ….

‘Once the place is established, it can get by more on momentum and on its value as a focal venue for socializing. You can take the presence of a lot of beautiful women as one sign that a place has crossed into this territory.

Don’t think of the model as “what happens to a restaurant when there is an exogenous increase in the beauty of its women” (recall Scott Sumner — “don’t reason from a beautiful women [price] change!” ). Think of the model as “what does lots of beautiful women predict about the place of a restaurant in its product life cycle?”’http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2012/04/the-matt-yglesias-take-on-restaurant-decline.html

32 Barkley Rosser July 27, 2015 at 1:35 pm

It is not so much that there might be too many attractive young women in an ethnic restaurant that signals its downfall, it is the absence of ugly old grandmothers from the home country who really know the cuisine.

33 anon July 27, 2015 at 8:30 pm

+1

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