Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Duangrat's Thai Restaurant in Baileys Crossroads (VA) has one of the most memorable names of any place we've blogged about. It also has one of the most memorable stories. In 1980, Ed and Pookie Duangrat opened a small Asian market. In 1987, they opened a restaurant around the corner from the market. Today, the market is still open and supplies the restaurant and its new sister restaurant Rabieng around the corner from Duangrat's Thai. If the market and two restaurants don't provide enough Thai excitement for you, there are Thai classical dance performances in a dinner theater on the upper level of Duangrat's.

Duangrat's is a gorgeous restaurant. It is decked from floor to ceiling in rich red tones and colorful murals. The wait staff dress in traditional Thai silk clothing. On the Friday evening we were there, the service was incredibly attentive. A team of no less than five different staff members served us quickly yet unobtrusively.

To begin our Duangrat's feast, we ordered the garlic salt and pepper calamari tempura. I'm not one to get excited about calamari, but this was outstanding. Hands down the best calamari dish I've had. The light batter was shatteringly crispy and had a very spicy kick to it. We demolished the whole bowl (including the crumbs) at record speed.

At the top of the "Signature Entrees" list was the Chiangmai Chili Pork advertised as panko-breaded strips of tender pork loin wok-tossed in their "scintillating signature chili-garlic sauce" with green beans and asparagus.

When I took my first bite, the taste that immediately came to mind was cinnamon Teddy Grahams. I know that is completely random but it was something about the sweetness of the breading that shot me back to elementary school lunch hour. As I ate the dish, the Teddy Graham flavor gave way to a more complex spicy-sweet combination. Overall, I liked it and I'm glad I tried it once, but I don't think I'd order it again.

Predictably, I ordered the drunken noodles. They were a good, yet not particularly amazing, rendition of the dish I've ordered 6.4 zillion times.

The calamari and the atmosphere were enough to encourage us to come back and give Duangrat's a second try. Although, next time we may try to spread our love to the rest of the family and visit nearby Rabieng for "Thai country comfort cooking." If the mood is as comfortable as Duangrat's, we will be in for a nice evening.

Second Thoughts from B

Oh Duangrat's... you started off so well. What happened? First the glowing online reviews, then the vibrant decor, then the bowl-lickingly good calamari. Half way through the meal J and I were congratulating ourselves for finding our next favorite Thai restaurant.

Then the wheels fell off. Good but odd pork and disappointingly average drunken noodles. Maybe it wasn't you. Maybe it was us. Had our expectations grown unrealistically high or did the meal peak prematurely? Would we feel differently if these same dishes came from a kitchen that hadn't already shown its considerable talent? It is hard to say at this point and hard to know if we'll be back to ever figure it out.

We are not professional food critics that try half the menu before coming to a conclusion. We aren't even amateur food critics. We are just a young couple that loves to eat out in a city with far more options than we'll ever get to try. Our impressions will be made on that first visit. 3 dishes out of 100 menu items will come to represent our thoughts on a restaurant. And like a 10-1 college football team missing a chance at the title game, one blemish can taint an experience and make us forget all of the success that was enjoyed. Considering all of the good things at Duangrat's, that's a sad thing to say, but it is also the reality of raised expectations.
Duangrat's on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

Grace said...

I don't remember being particularly impressed with their drunken noodles either. But if you do ever get the chance to go again, I do highly recommend their 'Grandma Duck.' SO good.