Chef Aulie Bunyaratapan and husband Mel Oursinsiri already run two Thai restaurants in the D.C. area: Georgetown’s Bangkok Joe’s and Shirlington’s T.H.A.I. But at Tom Yum District, opening today in Rosslyn, they’re taking a new approach to their native cuisine.
In the ShopHouse-like assembly-line, diners can mix and match between four bases (pad thai rice noodles, white or brown jasmine rice, or Asian mixed salad), four proteins (steak, chicken, shrimp, tofu), 10 toppings (cucumber relish, peanuts, fried garlic, bean sprouts), and five sauces (lemongrass-ginger, panang curry). Also among the sauces is the restaurant’s namesake, Tom Yum, a house-made chili paste and lime. The dishes cost between $6.75 and $7.95. A number of specialty Thai teas and beers are also available.
“I want a lot more people who are scared of Thai food to be able to taste it,” Bunyaratapan says of the restaurant’s build-your-own dish format.
The intersection of modern and traditional sensibilities that lies at the heart of Tom Yum District is also evident in the restaurant’s decor. The vibrant color scheme of magenta and yellow are prevelant in Thai culture, and the elephant logo, which subtly resembles a stringy noodle, is a symbol for royalty. (King of Thailand Bhumibol Adulyadej owns several elephants.)
Other design choices, such as the soft lighting and communal tables, are intended to transport diners to Thailand’s city streets. One wall has a mural of original images taken by the restaurant’s architect in Thailand, and the bathroom wallpaper imitates eccentric warning signs found in urban taxi cabs.
Check out the full menu For Tom Yum District here.
Tom Yum District, 1515 Wilson Blvd., Arlington; (703) 528-8424; tomyumdistrict.com
Photo by Dan Singer