Faculty Favorites: Dr. Sharma sends us to Sala Thai

Despite just moving from Delaware to DC this summer, Poonam Sharma, a Wilson physics and engineering teacher, is already up on the District’s restaurant scene. While Sharma has a knack for stumping students with challenging physics problems, she’s also great at finding tasty restaurants. One of her latest recommendations is Sala Thai, a Thai restaurant that originally opened in 1987, with locations at Bethesda Row, Minnesota Ave, and Rhode Island Row.

“In terms of Thai food, Sala Thai is awesome… the ambiance is great and it’s good to go with a friend, for any celebration, or over the weekend,” Sharma explained enthusiastically. “In Delaware, I really could not find any nice or decent Indian or Thai restaurants… I love it better in DC… [it’s] really on top of its game in terms of [a restaurant’s] presentation and ambiance.”

Margot: This month, Zara and Ella came along with me to Sala Thai’s Rhode Island Row location to try it out. It was a quiet Sunday afternoon when we got off the metro at the Rhode Island Ave and Brentwood stop. We were pleased to discover that the restaurant was only a block away. Walking in, the restaurant was almost completely empty. While the interior was relatively bare, bright sunlight shone through the large front windows, reflecting off a large gold decorative piece onto a red-painted wall. A few potted plants were arranged around the room. We were amused to hear a variety of slightly outdated pop songs playing mostly unobtrusively in the background.

Sala Thai serves a range of classic Thai dishes, from pad thai to curry, all of which have different meat and vegetable options. Most dishes are available in dinner and lunch portions. The dishes are reasonably priced: $9.95–11.95 for lunch portions and $12.95–15.95 for dinner portions.

Ella: While I thought I signed up to pay the seemingly reasonable $12 for a lunch-sized portion of a panang curry with tofu, I was pleasantly surprised with an American-style heaping bowl of curry. But by the time the bill came at the end of our meal, the monstrous portion size was justified with an utterly jarring price tag of $16. We dined at around 1 p.m., generally considered lunchtime, but for some reason were served dinner portions. I thought the peanutty flavor of the curry paired wonderfully with the tofu. I was disappointed the dish was entirely tofu-based without a vegetable in sight, but the tofu texture was just right to soak in the curry flavor.

Margot: Just like Ella, my order of pad see ew—flat rice noodles sauteed in soy sauce with pork, broccoli, and scrambled eggs—was also the large size ($12.95). I was so hungry I practically inhaled the whole steaming plate of noodles. The soy sauce gave the tender noodles a nice sweetness, while the pork and broccoli added hints of salt and garlic to it. It was overall pretty tasty, though it didn’t taste remarkably different than other versions of the dish I’ve had.

Zara: I went with the most classic (American) Thai dish: pad thai. Like the others, the pad thai with tofu was extremely large and came piping hot out of the kitchen. The noodle dish had a very nice balance of sweetness and spice, and the fried tofu had a beautiful golden outside with a soft and silky inside. Though I enjoyed the dish, it tasted like something I could get at any Thai place.

Among Sharma’s favorite dishes are the panang curry, ka prow, and drunken noodles. “The drunken noodles are the best,” she said.

Overall, we would give Sala Thai a 7 out of 10 stars. While the food was good, it wasn’t remarkably different from other Thai places we’d been to, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. When we got to the restaurant, the first thing the waitress asked us was if we were dining in or taking out, and as there was barely anyone in the restaurant, it led us to believe the latter was a more common dining option. So, if you happen to be in the neighborhood and want no-flair Thai food, then we would recommend stopping by or ordering out, but we wouldn’t go out of our way to eat there.