The Dish: Kapow pu krob
The Location: Bua Thai, 1635 P St. NW, (202) 265-0828.
The Price: $9.95
The Skinny: The menu at this comfy Thai operation off Dupont Circle is advertising a soft-shell crab special, which I would just normally assume means the blue-crab variety. But for some reason, I decide to ask the waiter where Bua Thai gets its crabs, and he says California. The massive creature sprawled across my colorful plate would seem to confirm that this is no undersized Chesapeake jimmy——-not that I could tell the difference just by tasting the shellfish. The golden, tempura-dipped crab has been not only fried but also covered in a chili-garlic sauce that’s topped with sliced peppers and crispy basil leaves. The composition is exquisite; the sugar-laced soy sauce perfectly balances out the fire of the peppers and the sauce. Even better, the fried basil adds a layer of aromatics over the top of everything, including the jasmine rice. But when I get back to the office, I can’t stop thinking about those California crabs. I call the restaurant to ask if they’re Dungeness or some other kind of crab; a manager can’t say for sure since the kitchen already threw away the boxes. Whatever they are, wherever they come from, those crabs are delicious. They’re also available for the next month only.