Image: Stir-fried seafood with curry (Mixed seafood stir fried with egg, onion, red peppers, celery, curry powder, chili paste and coconut milk). Yum.
Last Updated: June 2023
Donsak Thai represents another incremental step toward better dining options along the northern hamlets of the Red Line. Located in Woodley Park, and across the street from the new home of the phenomenal (and phenomenon) bakery Rose Ave., the neighborhood would have found Donsak Thai on its own, but it got a big bump with a positive review by Tom in the Post. As a result, you may not be able to stroll in at anytime, but it is worth making a reservation or to wait on a table.
It is not just its location, Donsak Thai goes against the grain in another way. For many the sight of a long menu is a warning sign that a restaurant lacks focus. Here, it indicates a range of talent. There are roughly three groupings across the menu. On the front page are many of the Thai dishes that will look familiar – papaya salad, rolls, chicken satay, melt-in-your-mouth crab Rangoon, pad thai, ka pao, and multiple curry options. It is the two separate sections that require a bit more thought but are worth exploring. House Specialties include a number of dishes including 100 Island, which is a large plate of seafood in a light chili garlic sauce and Kao Soi of noodles in yellow curry sauce. The last of the three groupings is Northern Thai (Essan) specialties, set off so far that they are located after the desserts. These tend to pack more spice into each bite including the different Som Tam (papaya salad) options. Tom’s review highlighted the nham kao tod with some eloquence, “Sprung from cooked, cooled rice that’s seasoned with curry paste and herbs and fried to a fine crunch, then broken into pieces and tossed with roasted peanuts, julienne fermented ham, onions and daggers of fresh ginger — the taste equivalent of a three-ring circus. Diners use cool lettuce leaves to bundle the assembly and foil the riot of flavors. I wouldn’t dream of not ordering nham kao tod.” We would suggest sampling from each of the three groupings, especially if you have a larger group that is willing to explore.
Owner Supisa “Boom” Teawbut, and Co-owner/executive chef Boontom Ratana are both veterans of the regional dining scene, with Teawbut coming from Beau Thai and Ratana from Urban Thai in Arlington. The menu can be seen as a mixing of their understanding of what Americans tend to like about Thai with a desire to show what else is possible, and Ratana has roots in Northern Thailand. Donsak Thai is a place where you can place your trust in the kitchen to go beyond the familiar.
The space is simple with seating for maybe a couple dozen diners and a small bar in the back (patio seating being added). They are doing a brisk business with multiple delivery orders going out the door for every sit-down diner coming in. The veterans of the industry were able to keep pace with the uptick in attention without getting crushed. The drink menu is not deep, with a few cocktails, a few beers (both can and tap), a few wines and lots of non-alcoholic options (Thai iced tea, juices, sodas and Mexican Coke!).
Other Guidance: There are handful of Vegan options labelled on the menu. GF can do well. Washington Post accessibility guidance: Ramp at the (heavy) front door; ADA-compliant restroom.
Washington Post: Tom’s very positive take.
Washingtonian: No coverage yet.
DonRockwell.com – Woodley Park Dining thread.