Arts & Entertainment

Restaurant Spotlight: Rabieng

rabieng005In the mood for Thai at Duangrat’s, but not so keen on the fine-dining atmosphere? Go next door.

rabieng005In the mood for Thai at Duangrat’s, but not so keen on the fine-dining atmosphere? Go next door.

Rabieng, the sister restaurant to Falls Church’s well-respected Duangrat’s, bills itself as a spot for “Thai country comfort cooking” from across the many regions of Thailand. From the moment diners enter the restaurant, they are welcomed into a comfortable, friendly atmosphere that reflects the best of casual dining. Simply drawn scenes of Thai country life decorate walls papered in green and gold in a well-lit corridor lined with ceramic-tile tables, leading toward an upstairs dining room featuring an expansive mural depicting similar images.

Despite the small, simple dining space, the menu, a veritable book of selections, offers great variety at an affordable price. Diners can hardly resist starting their meal with a treat from the appetizers menu, with options priced between $7.50 and $4.50. With fresh rolls, spring rolls, larb and satay, along with a number of salads, the menu has all the Thai classics, often with a unique touch that lets customers know this isn’t everyday Thai. In the fresh rolls, egg, tofu, cucumber and sprouts come together in a soft wrapper with barbecue sausage. The rolls are then smothered in tamarind sauce and sliced for easy eating. Inside the roll, the crunch of the veggies beneath the chewy wrapper offers a delightful texture and savory taste, set against the lightly sweet, rich sauce.

For another sweet and savory combination that amps up the sweetness, adventurous diners can try the lychee dumplings, a house special which serves seeded lychee fruit filled with pork and topped with cilantro. The juicy sweetness of the lychee gets only a bit of salty taste from the pork at first bite, with the cilantro taking over as the combination rests on the tongue. The whole experience is ultimately strange and yet satisfying.rabieng001

The number of entree offerings, which all cost around $13, might initially overwhelm, but the menu is prefaced with the chef’s choices where the restaurant shines. In the chicken bhram is everything that makes hungry people crave Thai food: A creamy coconut milk sauce, peanut seasoning and perfect curry spiciness. The dish is served nearly overflowing with the delicious sauce, which drenches bite-size pieces of tender chicken. The sauce and chicken sits on a surprising bed of Napa cabbage, which stands up to the meal, offering crunch that spices up the textural variety in this spicy dish.

For diners looking for something a bit more unique than chicken for their entree, the menu offers quail and boar options. The popular moo pah features boar, the chewy, gamey cousin of pork. The meat, along with eggplant, is cooked in a thin red curry sauce, which is lightly flavored by the pork, but gets its overwhelming taste and spice from green peppercorns. Though the taste of game meats can be off-putting, the boar’s treatment in this dish takes the edge off, and the spice nearly obscures it entirely.

The entrees on the menu are listed with a chili pepper for spicy, and two for extra spicy, and the dishes cover the entire spice spectrum, catering to both the timid and the bold of palate. But when the meal is done and it’s time to cool a spicy mouth, Rabieng has the desserts to satisfy. The $5 coconut ice cream, served in ample amount within a hollowed coconut shell, is the perfect ending to a country comfort meal in this charming restaurant.

Rabieng is located at 5892 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church.  For more information, call 703-671-4222 or visit duangrats.com/rabieng.  Restaurant hours are Monday – Friday: 11:30 a.m. – 10 p.m.; Saturday: 11 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.; and Sunday: 11 a.m. –10 p.m.

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