Falls Church, A 22041
After the first few bites of almost any dish at Rabieng, all the other Thai restaurants seem to kinda blend into a grey background. The variety and quality of flavors at Rabieng's, combined with its unpretentious calming atmosphere, are tough to beat. In this post, we are not going to go into extensive comparisons of Rabieng with its parent restaurant Duangrats, which incidentally we found to be inferior to Rabieng, or its well-deserved raves and ratings in the Washingtonian, Zagats, and USA Today, which you can find on its webiste. To remind our readers, our blog is mainly about our particular dining experience(s) in the restaurant, and all dining experiences at Rabieng for us have been consistently great.
Rabieng is a small unassuming 2-story restaurant that is easy to miss around the corner of a strip mall in Bailey's Crossroads, an area rich with top-notch ethnic dives in Falls Church. There are only about 7 or 8 booths and 2-3 tables downstairs, all decorated with a fresh orchid stem, where patrons are seated first before the hosts offer upstairs seating.
The Fried Calamari and Plantain Tempura appetizers were terrific. Fried Calamari is served in a bowl on top of lettuce. When the calamari is gone, the lettuce turns into a salad with the remainder of the sauce as a dressing. The sauce is somewhat on the sweeter side, but is sweet and sour and definitely has a kick! Plaintain Tempura is basically fried bananas (or plantains), a dish that by its nature is on the sweeter side with a crispy outer layer and a soft delicious middle. Roasted cashews are a wonderful side to any of Rabieng's dishes, and are prepared in a subtle and simple way. A bit of a disappointment was the Beef Nam Tok salad, where the meat was quite limp and flavorless, even when covered by herbs and sauces. This is probably the only dish we wouldn't order again, and actually prefer the way it is prepared at Tara Thai in Tysons, where the meat is a bit firmer and more savory.
All entrees at Rabieng are delicious. We have tried many of them over the few times we have visited on our own and with friends. On this particular afternoon, we tried the Chef's Signature Specials. The Chicken Horapa comes sauteed in a gentle roasted chili sauce served on a bed of noodles. If you prefer your noodles al dente, you might want to tell them in advance. The Bhram, which is chicken breast pieces sauteed in a peanut sauce, comes out stew-like on a bed of napa cabbage, rendering the cabbage slightly wilted, yet crispy enough to give the dish a pleasant texture. Both entrees are very well-prepared and well-seasoned, although those with a penchant for more heat can add the delectable fish sauce that they serve upon request.
Our server Nit was efficient, pleasant, knowledgeable and attentive. So was the rest of the small team of servers. Can't ask for better.
We will definitely be back to Rabieng!
Btw, if you decide to be a little adventurous in your own kitchen and want to replicate some of the dishes you tasted at Rabieng, a small aian Asian Grocery Store next door, incidentally also owned by Duangrats, offers all the spices that can make this possible.
Modern and clean
Stairs leading to second floor
Fried calamari appetizer
Beef Nam Tok salad and Plantain Tempura
Roasted cashews appetizer
Chef's Signature Specials: Chicken Horapa (top) and Bhram with chicken (bottom)