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New Thai restaurant imports favorite seasoning to Georgetown

ON THE STREET
Max Pizarro

Among the international cuisines making a play for universal recognition in New World of old standards like Chinese, Italian and Mexican is Thai.

Distinguished by its basil and hot pepper seasoning and fresh vegetable and noodle combinations, Thai food has emerged at the forefront of D.C.’s restaurants. Open up a phone book. The number of Thai places dwarfs other would-be stalwarts in the area.

Now Georgetown has a new Thai restaurant, and the chef’s reliance on one of her favorite seasoning figures prominently in the title. Basil Thai opened in mid-February at 1608 Wisconsin Ave.

Three native Thai women run the restaurant: Onie Sorapun, Janet Varee and Weena.

Originally Bangkok, Sorapun said she attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison and spent a decade of learning the restaurant ropes from her mother, Sukanda. Sukanda has operated several Thai restaurants in the D.C. area through the years, Sorapun said.

Sorapun and her friends are ready to take over in the Northwest in their first restaurant venture.

Now the knock on some Oriental food is the high MSG (monosodium glutamate) content. Never mind that if you pick up an honest-to-goodness can of American soup at the supermarket the chances of its being saturated with MSG are fairly good. The chemical tag has stuck on Oriental food like white on rice.

But it will not be a problem at Basil Thai, according to the owners. They make this point right away.

"We do not use MSG here," said Sorapun.

"We search the kitchen staff everyday," she cracked.

She and Varee stressed the fresh produce and meats used in the dishes at Basil Thai, and the natural seasonings: fresh chili pepper, minimal oil, garlic, basil and ginger.

Presentation and atmosphere are two more big factors at Basil. Sorapun’s brother Oct designed the décor along with his friend Danny Vaivong. The place contains 11 tables, each one strikingly and individually painted and glazed. The walls are decked with Vaivong’s original watercolor and paintings, featuring the recognizable rocks and waterways of Glen Echo. It’s not a zany interior, by any means. But it has a bold New Agedness to it, underscored by the colorful abstract lines on the table and bar-stool tops.

The bar is in the back, and when the Basil Thai’s liquor license kicks in a few days, Varee and Sorapun said it will be handsomely stocked and it will include Thailand’s own bracing brand of beer.

But it all gets back to the food, of course, and that’s significant when one considers that Basil Thai offers free delivery.

"We even deliver downtown," said Sorapun. "And accept all major credit cards."

The owners said a couple can eat here for $20 to $25.

Article From Sky Magazine, Delta Airline
( Magazine Published Jan. 2004 )

8 Great Thai Restaurants

Basil Thai Restaurant

WASHINGTON, D.C.

Basil Thai Restaurant Georgetown teems with wonderful Asian restaurants, and the 30-seat Basil Thai has consistently scored with high critics and locals who delight in the bright, colorful ambience and the authentic renderings of classic dishes like pad Thai, steamed dumplings with tamarind sauce and “drunken noodles” with spicy beef. To indicate heat level, the ton mun fishcakes are marked on the menu not with stars but with a bomb. 1608 Wisconsin Avenue NW, 202-944-8660.

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