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Welcome to Spice Route, in which food writer Warren Rojas connects diners to the most fiery and flavorful dishes in area restaurants.
Location: Kin Da, 6923 Laurel Ave., Takoma Park, Md.; (240) 582-5122; kindatakoma.com
Vision: Four-year-old neighborhood eatery Kin Da plies faithful patrons with an array of raw seafood and zesty noodle dishes. The former is prepared at a sushi counter adorned with a sign that reads “we can not spell success without u.” The latter is prepared in the kitchen with the restaurant’s aromatics-laced liquid fire.
Unlike restaurants that try to dissuade newcomers from ordering specialty items meant to entice native diners, Kin Da staff members don’t lecture customers or grill them about what type of spicy fare they’ve ingested elsewhere when someone requests something served “Thai hot.” The menu features nearly 20 opportunities to customize your heat level, including with assorted soups, salads, stir-fry offerings, curry bowls, and duck and crab creations.
Execution: The restaurant doctors the heat level ranging in a four-step scale from “less spicy” to “Thai hot” by controlling how much of a proprietary blend of fresh and dry chile peppers hits each plate. The heat balances with other flavors in Thai dishes such as pungent fresh basil, savory garlic, and tart lime.
An order of drunken noodles bathed in Thai hot chili-garlic sauce didn’t seem intimidating at first. The chewy noodles were layered with stir-fried tomatoes, onions, basil, pork, and what appeared to be an abundance of bell peppers. Things changed after I absent-mindedly chomped on a huge chunk of a glossy pepper—noticing too late that seeds were still clinging to the ribs of the jalapeño. A few seconds later, a tickle developed in my throat, my nose was running like crazy, and fireworks erupted with every subsequent bite.
Intensity (out of five): Four sirens