Friday, October 2, 2015

Thailand: Spice Before a Return to the Bland

Having done this here little project in Berlin and DC, I can tell you that, if nothing else, it is easier to find spicy food in DC. Little Serow is a perfect example of this and I am pretty sure that there is nothing like it in all of Berlin where the Thai food is probably served by a Vietnamese person and dulled with coconut milk to the point where it's unrecognizable as Thai food. Did I mention I'm moving back to Berlin? Not for the Thai food, I assure you. 

That said, Little Serow is also not your typical US-based Thai restaurant. This is largely because it serves the food of northern Thailand, which (from what I understand) uses less coconut milk and tends to be a lot spicier than food from central Thailand like most Thai food you can find in the States. Little Serow, while not a fancy place, serves a prixe fixe menu for $45, doesn't take reservations (meaning that you'll have to stand in line if you want to dine there), and won't make any substitutions for vegetarians or shellfish allergies or spice phobias, etc. For $45 you get something like seven dishes, which left us more than satisfied, but not feeling near death. My favorite dish was a spread or dip made from finger chilies to be eaten with fried pork rinds. I am not the fried pork rind sort, but this dish had a really complex flavor with a seriously flavorful heat that wasn't entirely mouth-numbing. Actually, the food was less insanely spicy than I had expected, which may have something to do with the fact that everyone who learns you are planning to eat at Little Serow tells you how insanely spicy it is. It was very, very spicy and was happy to have ordered the sweet rice milk, which is not usually my style and was kind of like a rice pudding smoothie, but helped mitigate the heat a lot. In the end we liked all the dishes a lot - a pomelo salad with rock shrimp, a pork sausage with lime leaf, a catfish larb-type dish (my least favorite of the night), fried tofu with peanuts and ginger, oyster and cremini mushrooms with basil and a fried egg, and melt-in-your-mouth pork ribs that had been marinated in mekong whiskey (a close second to the chili spread). The only disappointing bit was the dessert bite they give you with the check: a tiny square of sticky rice with coconut cream, which was fine and admittedly free, but really average and in my opinion, a lazy thing to leave as your guests final taste memory.

Overall, Little Serow is was a really satisfying experience. The food is interesting and almost entirely delicious and I think the price is really reasonable for what you get. We also thought the service was excellent - the waitstaff was all really warm without being over the top (we didn't learn any of their names, for example) and extremely knowledgable. There were a few minor issues - the sticky rice dessert bite, the music is a little too loud, my stool wobbled terribly until I got down on the ground and evened things out with my napkin - no one came to my assistance or even replaced my napkin, but this is, for the most part, nitpicking. I'd go back tomorrow and I don't say that about most places I eat. 

Little Serow
1511 17th Street NW, DC

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