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Restaurant reviews in Tyson's and surrounding area... mostly

Monday, June 20, 2016

Side Street & Sushi Bar by iThai - Thai Street Food and Sushi Bar in Vienna, VA

8603 Westwood Center Dr., Ste #100

Vienna, VA 22182
Tel : 703-992-7923

If you want to know the way to our hearts - it is through Thai food. But what is Thai food to us?

It is no surprise to many Thai food lovers that the Thai food we all know and love may not be "real" Thai food. That is, it is "real" to us Americans - Pad Thai with your choice of chicken or shrimp or the famous Drunken Noodles - How can noodles be drunken? A delicious aromatic mouthwatering Tom Yum soup to begin our meal. These have undoubtedly been our Thai comfort foods over the years.

For our American palates, Thai chefs, inspired by the resourcefulness of Chinese chefs, have created an extensive assortment of dishes to appeal to our unique gastronomic adventurousness. Favorites like Chicken Satay or Siamese Beef that call out our names as we drive past our favorite local Thai restaurants excite our taste buds. However, these staple dishes would make most Thai people scratch their heads in bewilderment.

Fortunately, now we don't have to be extras in an Anthony Bourdain CNN entourage to take a trip down to Thailand to taste what Thai people love and eat every day. We don't even have to be members of the 2-years young World Street Food Congress (yes, there is such a thing!)!  Recently a host of restaurants have popped up across the U.S. serving up actual authentic Thai Street Food to give us a chance to taste Thailand without the hassle of airline travel or TSA lines.

In fact, one of our favorite Northern Virginia Thai spots in Tysons Corner has continued to surprise us with their approach to great Thai food.  If you follow our blog, you'll remember that we reviewed iThai in Vienna, VA on numerous occasions, and have dined there more than a dozen times. Only four years after launching iThai in Tysons, the three seasoned female restauranteurs have successfully reinvented their restaurant.

iThai is now known as “Side Street & Sushi Bar by iThai.” The restaurant moved only a few doors over in the same corporate park strip mall. But the physical move two months ago was much more than a relocation: iThai has rebranded its menu, its atmosphere, and dare we say: it rebranded its spirit.   The new feel and energy of Side Street & Sushi Bar by iThai is a departure from its previous location, whose lobby it shared with Ringling Bros corporate office. 

The philosophy of Side Street & Sushi Bar by iThai is to bring the streets of any metropolitan city in Thailand to the folks of Northern Virginia.  They’ve also added a sushi menu.  The General Manager, whose name Yo is easy to remember! passionately and patiently explained to us the intricacies of Thai cuisine in general and Thai street food in particular.  A fascinating aspect of Thai food is the influences of cuisines from its neighboring countries, like Malaysia, Burma, Laos, China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Singapore. These influences can even make a difference in the ingredients of a simple Papaya Salad (Som Tum) that is served in Northern Thailand versus Southern Thailand. 

We started with a glass of very refreshing Roselle Juice (Hibiscus) over ice. We wondered out loud how great it would go with a shot of vodka and were told its already on the bar menu.  Will be back soon for happy hour to try one (or five) of those.  

Two Thai specialties hit the table first.  Sweet corn fritters and chicken satay.  Let us just say that the Corn fritters were amazing and the Chicken Satay, a familiar favorite, was equally great.  After the two Thai staples came a course of sushi .  The sushi was fresh and offered a nice twist on what we expected to be a thai menu.  The entrees came next. We had Khao Nua Obb, a traditional beef and broccoli dish that was a bit light on flavor and overtaken by the majority of broccoli.  

A chicken dish, of Burmese origins, according to Yo, called Khao Soi: crispy noodles and shredded red onions surrounded a chicken leg in a spicy orange coconut-based broth. Identified by 2 red peppers on the menu, it was on the hot and spicy side.  Next came the Khao Sam Moo: a barbeque-like pork dish served with rice, Chinese style.  

What came next was something neither of us will ever forget: The appropriately nicknamed "Stinky Beans" dish. Wow. This dish of Malaysian origins is officially called Sator Pad Goong and can be served with any meat of your choice. The unusual aroma we were warned about in advance did not disappoint. 

A delicious tapioca dessert was the perfect ending and wrapped everything up nicely.  Tapioca with Cantaloupe in sweet coconut milk was refreshing and a nice way to relax the taste buds after a flavorful meal. We’ll be back, probably during happy hour to try the “adult version” of the amazing Roselle Juice, but also to try more of the dishes on their broad menu.

Hibiscus juice (next time we'll try it with vodka!) during happy hour every day 4:00-7:00pm

Happy Hour menu

Sushi bar

Clockwise from top left: Corn Fritters and Chicken Satay appetizers, followed by a wonderful assortment of sushi and sashimi, with extensive vegan options

On the left is the Khao Soi with Chicken, which is a House Specialty Broth; on the right is the Khao Nua Obb (also known on the menu as Khao Nua Tak Rai), beef brocooli

Famous Chicken with "Stinky Beans" Sator Pad Goong

BBQ Pork entree: Khao Sam Moo

Mild and delectable Tapioca Cantaloupe dessert that gets its green color from the Pandan Leaf

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