Washington Business Times – 08/18/97
Monday, August 18, 1997
Haad Thai serves up elegance, great food without usual prices
Here's a novel concept for a business lunch: great food cheap without attitude. That's what Haad Thai has offered next to the Washington Convention Center for almost three years. Throw in attentive service and an elegant but relaxed setting in the District's coolest building and you have a stress-free place to escape the office.
Only a block from the Convention Center, Haad Thai shares ground-floor space with Capitol City Brewing Co. and Ristorante Luigino at 1100 New York Ave. NW. Better known as the old Greyhound bus terminal, the 1940s art deco relic was declared a national historic landmark in 1987 and stands as an architectural rebuke to the deadening postmodern glass boxes and older office buildings in the area.
Haad Thai offers 37 lunch dishes based on the complex combinations of sweet and fiery ingredients that have made Thai cuisine the rising popular ethnic food of the 1990s. The menu, with its careful blend of tastes, mocks the forced fusion of ingredients such as pineapple and ham that nouvelle cuisine chefs foist on innocent pizzas around town.
Typically tasty is ka prow, a natural combination of chicken, red bell peppers and snow peas sauteed in a sauce made from fresh basil leaves, green chili peppers and garlic. The dish is one of 20 that are marked hot and spicy. As if to establish its authentic credentials as an alternative to Chinese restaurants, Haad Thai's menu says: "Extra spicy available upon request."
Everything is served with careful attention to presentation, with a bright mix of vegetables matching the colors of the dining room. The walls feature murals of tropical settings rendered in greens and blues. The restaurant is open and airy, with tables spaced far enough apart to allow private conversations. The room is built around a bar with dining seating in the center and looks like a good place to relax after being cooped up in a convention meeting.
Most refreshing are the prices. No lunch entree costs more than $7.95. That makes it possible for two persons to get an appetizer and main course for $25, including a 20 percent tip. "We try to make it economical for people who work around the area,” owner Charles Kia says. That helps explain why the restaurant was packed and noisy on a Monday when there didn't seem to be a tourist in sight, despite all the nearby convention hotels. Haad Thai draws mostly from conventions and surrounding office buildings.
Prices soon might change after holding steady for three years. But Haad Thai intends to remain an affordable option for anyone tired of typical expense-account eateries.