All in DC, not Wheaton. Sometimes the stomach wanders.
Thai Tanic (1326-A 14th Street) — a CityPaper/Express reader poll favorite, longtime anchor of the southern end of what is now the hot hot hot 14th Street restaurant corridor. I had never been here before, despite TT being on the list of punny restaurants to visit (you’re next Thaiphoon!) (maybe…) Fun decor, lots of golds and woods, a genuine (Americanized) Thai feel. They offer some unusual menu items other local Thai joints, including Ruan and Nava, don’t, like goong phuket, ground chicken and shrimp in chili sauce, which was unbalanced, too sweet and lacking fire. Most dishes have multiple peppers next to their name, signifying heat, but in the end there wasn’t enough for me. If I’m not sweating, it isn’t Thai-hot enough. Sodden kra pow with pork wasn’t anywhere close to Nava’s kaprow! league. Yum nua beef salad was the highlight, living up to its two-menu-peppers with a tangy, well-balanced lime-based sauce. Overall okay, total old school compared with all the new restaurants up the street.
Burma (740 6th Street, Chinatown) is on the backside of Verizon Center, next to Kanlaya, up a desolate institutional metal stairwell that reminded my uncle of various Hong Kong dive walkups, so I guess that’s a point for authenticity. I’ve been to Burma several times, and I think I go back because it is cheap (most entrees $8-11) and filling and you can almost always get right in, which is increasingly difficult at most non-Chinese Chinatown restaurants. It isn’t the food, which is mediocre at best. Lots of noodle dishes, some rice, some soup, everything I have tried is underseasoned, bland, and just dumped on the plate sans any artistry whatsoever. I understand the blanditude may be sort of a hallmark of genuine Burmese cuisine, but…not my thing. I suspect that in fact it’s just not a great restaurant, probably there is better Burmese food somewhere (maybe not in DC), but it does serve its purpose.
Asia Nine (915 E Street, Penn Quarter), on the other hand, is pretty good. Been there several times too, always lunch, and the worst dish at AN has been an improvement on anything at Burma. Menu is a good mix of Thai, Japanese, Vietnamese, and some fusion. Curries are only okay — I’ve tried the lemongrass and green, the former is more vividly spiced than the latter — but the Asia Nine lo mein is spicy and fresh-tasting. Sushi and soups are reportedly good. Portions are large, prices are okay. Decibels are high, and service can be maddening, both in pace (slow) and accuracy (misdelivered dishes, wrong dishes, missing dishes, having to ask 74 times for water). But it’s one of the few restaurants near my office in that nice-enough-for-sitdown-lunch-but-not-TOO-nice range — why must everything be either Tosca or Potbelly? — and there is some solid value at Asia Nine. You just can’t go if you’re in a hurry to get back to work.