Casual Thai Restaurant Opens in Rosslyn
Chef Aulie Bunyaratapan and her husband Mel Oursinsiri, owners of Bangkok Joe’s in Georgetown and T.H.A.I. in Shirlington, opened Tom Yum District, their latest restaurant with a modern take on Thai food at 1515 Wilson Blvd. in Rosslyn on June 27.
“Tom Yum is the name of a well-known soup in Thailand,” Bunyaratapan told DC on Heels about how they came up with the new restaurant’s name. “It is salty, sweet, sour and spicy. [The name] is easy to pronounce, recognize and it is memorable.”
The soup has lots of Thai lemon grass, shallots and garlic, Bunyaratapan explained. While the soup isn’t on the eatery’s menu, those flavors are used in various dishes and sauces including the house-made green sriacha sauce sitting on every table along with a traditional red sriacha.
The menu features customizable, made-to-order rice and noodle bowls with traditional Thai flavors in a modern way. Think of a Thai version of Chipolte or Cava Mezze.
Influenced by her years in the kitchen and a highly tuned attention to detail, Bunyaratapan has carefully curated the customizable menu to emphasize traditional Thai flavors, techniques and spices.
“Tom Yum District is the continuation of our dream to bring Thai cuisine to the Washington area in innovative yet approachable ways,” said Bunyaratapan. “I am thrilled to bring fresh and authentic Thai flavors to a more casual dining experience that allows guests an easy and quick way to enjoy Thai food.”
Diners choose from four bases, four grilled proteins, five sauces, and 10 toppings designed to be mixed and matched to create countless combinations. Highlights of the menu include the signature Tom Yum chili paste as well as other house made marinades and sauces including their exclusive green Sriracha sauce.
Each bowl starts with a base of white jasmine rice, brown jasmine rice, pad Thai rice noodles or Asian mixed salad. Diners can choose beef grilled in a coriander-garlic marinade for $7.55, chicken grilled in a lemongrass-turmeric marinade for $6.95, grilled shrimp with sweet chili sauce for $7.95 or grilled organic tofu with a sesame ginger glaze for $6.75.
Bunyaratapan was challenged to come up with a way to serve the noodles quickly since they don’t keep long after being cooked. “Usually they are cooked to order,” she explained. “So the wok is close to the front of the line, and we are cooking only 5 ½ orders (11 servings) at a time to keep the noodles fresh.”
Sauces include Tom Yum, a house-made chili paste and lime; Panang curry, a curried peanut sauce; drunken made with oyster sauce and Thai herbs; or a white wine-orange vinaigrette. Toppings include Asian mixed romain, napa cabbage and carrots, red onions, bean sprouts, cucumber relish, mixed herbs with cilantro, basil and mint, grilled vegetables, egg, crushed peanuts and friend garlic.
Diners can see their meal being cooked in a traditional stir-fry wok or on a plancha (flat top grill) in the open kitchen. The beverage menu includes roasted coconut juice typically found in Asian markets, toasted rice flavored green tea, Thai tea in bottles, Thai beers and fountain drinks.
The 49-seat restaurant is decorated in dark and light woods with exposed drop lighting, designed to represent street lights, cast concrete and raw metal with accents of magenta and yellow, two colors prominent in Thai culture. A geometric mural of black and white original photos depicting iconic Thai imagery and textured architectural elements inspired by a popular Thai carving are just a sampling of the East meets West influences evident throughout the restaurant. Seating is at long communal tables, designed to mimic the well-known Thai temple design, and a few two-tops.
Tom Yum District is open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. daily and is three blocks from the Rosslyn Metro.