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For a place that had the chutzpah to open directly across 14th Street NW from the regrettably named Thaitanic, newcomer Teak Wood is an awfully meditative space, as if it’s going to squash the competition with prayer.
The first thing that greets you upon entering is a sleek, decidedly slim Buddha carved out of — yep, that’s right — teak wood. There’s more statuary where that came from. If I had to guess, I’d say that if anyone around here understands the first noble truth of the Enlightened One, it has to be that dated, glittery Thai palace across the street.
Teak Wood is just flat-out attractive. Its beauty is all natural, too, carved out of teak for as far as the eye can see. Even the tables and chairs are assembled out of the namesake wood. I wanted to inspect the dining room sculpture as much as the menu.
Like with its counterpart in Wheaton, Teak Wood mixes sushi and maki rolls with Thai dishes. Owner Chuchart Kampirapang apparently added the Japanese cuisine to distinguish Teak Wood from his other wood-heavy restaurant, Regent Thai near Dupont. Based on my initial visit, the sushi is actually outperforming the Thai plates.
More photos and commentary after the jump.
Our waitress told us that the owners constructed the tables and chairs themselves.
The host stand at Teak Wood: Your greeter is sort of wooden.
The Enlightened One is always watching.
The Thai version of a window mannequin.
These intricate relief carvings can be found over many tables at Teak Wood.
Even the menus are made out of wood.
As are the holders for your chopsticks.
The wood theme carries over to the restrooms, too.
After my lackluster experience in (sort of) fresh fish at Nava Thai, my expectations were low for the sushi at Teak Wood. My toro tuna nigiri, however, was clean and fresh, the fatty belly contrasting nicely with the swab of wasabi and the delicately perfumed sushi rice. Even Teak Wood’s maki roll, a form of sushi I typically loath for its tendency to flood my mouth with rice, won me over. Perhaps glopped with too much spicy mayo, this tempura dipped roll was stuffed with enough fresh tuna to balance out the rice. Just as important, its light tempura crunch added an element of texture often absent from rolls, while its spicy dressing made sure not to overwhelm the delicate tuna.
The panang chicken curry, by contrast, was mid-grade at best. The curry itself was deceptive: more sweet and lush than complex, the sauce saved its punch to the very end, when its heat would pinch your tongue and then linger. The sliced chicken, however, was dry despite the surrounding pool of sauce.
The pad Thai was the weakest link. The dish’s typically complex flavors were reduced to a rather pedestrian combination of sweet, sour, and the fainest undercurrent of fish sauce. I was dying for some heat.
Teak Wood, 1323 14th St. NW., (202) 290-1856