- The Washington Times - Monday, January 7, 2002

Sala Thai has over the years developed a reputation as one of the "best buy" restaurants in the District. It's been a favorite among the undergrads at Georgetown or George Washington and is a popular dinner spot for those mulling around DuPont Circle on a weekend night.
And it's not a bad place to hold a laid-back business lunch.
Nestled below ground on P Street just off Dupont Circle, Sala Thai is a cozy alternative to the world of caviar and power ties.
It is nicely lit, with gray, black and white furnishings that are easy on the eyes. There is a quiet simplicity present here that makes one forget the hustle and bustle of the workday.
The only drawback is its relative distance from the offices near Farragut North or West, and the fact that some unfamiliar visitors may have difficulty finding it.
My lunch companion and I arrived exactly at noon to find the restaurant virtually empty. It gradually filled in over the course of the next 30 minutes, but noise was never a problem. Lunch visitors needing to spread out to conduct business, however, might run into a problem. Toward the end of our meal, a couple took the table next to ours and I found myself wondering if they could hear our conversation. A simple reach to my right could have snatched the couple's place settings.
Depending on the dish, some might find Sala Thai's selections a bit heavy for lunch. But taste-wise, we had no complaints. Choosing from the extensive lunch menu, we began with the Mee Krob, a scrumptious appetizer made with crispy noodles mixed with pork and shrimp in a sweet sauce. One order was large enough to serve us both.
For entrees, the chicken in curry peanut sauce was delicious but spicy enough to require four glasses of water. The chicken pieces were tender and tasted fresh, and there were plenty of them. Served with perfectly cooked white rice, the dish left hardly enough room for dessert.
For a lighter fare, taking a crack at the chicken with ginger, as my companion did, is recommended. Served with vegetables, the dish will satisfy anyone unwilling to walk off their lunch later. Other options on the menu include a whole red snapper with Thai spice wrapped in banana leaves, stir-fry watercress with hot chili and shrimp with asparagus in oyster sauce. Vegetarians can select from a variety of vegetable, tofu or noodle dishes.
Looking for dessert? Try the fried bananas or coconut ice cream.
The fried bananas were actually one banana served in four pieces. They are a chore to eat too small for a fork and too messy for the hands.
But sprinkled with some powdered sugar they are a tasty treat to anyone who doesn't mind a slight aftertaste of rum. The coconut ice cream is a larger dessert but also lighter, less exotic and cheaper.
If coming to Sala Thai for lunch, it's best not be in a hurry. The staff, while pleasant and knowledgeable, could use a lesson in attentiveness.
We waited 15 minutes to give our orders, and while our water glasses were filled regularly, our waitress never asked us if we wanted another beverage besides. I asked for a Pepsi, but never received it. Our meals did come promptly, but the entire lunch took nearly 90 minutes.
But while the service is less than spectacular at Sala Thai, the prices are tough to beat. Most lunch dishes were under $7, and desserts were less than $4. For the thrifty businessperson looking for a laid-back place to take a colleague, Sala Thai is recommended.

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