Thai Aree is the perfect antidote to a syndrome I call "Penny's Noodle fatigue." One can only eat so many dishes of gummy sweet pad Thai or steamed broccoli in gloppy brown oyster sauce before the prospect of hitting Pot Pan for panang curry starts to feel like a carefully contrived practical joke at your expense. Thai Aree dispels all that with fresh clean flavors, a liberal hand with unique Thai herbs and a commitment to fresh ingredients and balanced presentation.
Start with Larp, cold chopped beef, chicken or pork drenched with lime juice, crunchy toasted rice, lemongrass and chopped fresh chilis from the restaurant's garden: every flavor sings. Otherwise try the Nam Sod, ground pork with lime, chili, peanuts and a tender crinkle of brined white tree fungus. Follow it with garlic beef, perfectly grilled marinated steak with slices of implausible sweet raw garlic that comes with lettuce leaves for you to make your thai style beef taco. Call ahead and ask for the special sour curry with cauliflower and shrimp. You'll get a mouth-puckeringly sour galangal-spiked fishy brew unlike any sweet and sour soup you've ever seen. Ask the owner Eddie if he's found any special fresh vegetables in the market that day; you could end up with unbelievably delicate green spherical Thai eggplants in a warm green curry.
Be forewarned: if you ask for hot, hot is what you'll get. The kitchen at Thai Aree has no compunction about clearing your sinuses with a swift kick of capsaicin. And if you ask for Thai-style heat, expect to clutch the table, sweat profusely, and beg for more. BYOB.
Average cost: $10-$20